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Thursday, October 22, 2015
October 22, 2015 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:38 PM :: 3485 Views

Lawsuit Challenges 10% Skimmed by State from Honolulu Rail Surcharge

CNHA: Fake Testimony for Fake Indian Tribe?

ACLU Complaint Leads to Change in Sand Island Shelter Rules

VIDEO: Molokai Farmers not fooled by Ashley Lukens Anti-GMO Show

State's Grab for Private Sector Jobs is a Giant Step Backward

Video: The Affordable Housing Business with Stanford Carr

Hawaii Suffers due to Lack of Republicans

Milner: The Death of Hawaii’s Two-Party System--Death is not too strong a word to use here. Influence-wise, the Republicans here are gone, and there is no resurrection on the horizon.

This continuing downward trend is not suddenly going to reverse. All kinds of research show that in any election the percentage of voters likely to switch parties is small.  That percentage in Hawaii is almost always too small to elect a Republican.

So it is safe to see one-party control as a given.

Most of the time, we focus on the policy consequences of this — you know, like conservative versus liberal.

Instead, consider something else: the link between the lack of an effective Republican Party and the longstanding lack of transparency that is so common in Hawaii government.

The absence of Republicans makes it much harder to challenge this government murkiness. A strong opposition party is an important watchdog. Without that? Well, consider how the Legislature makes policies and how state agencies administer them.

Here is how the Legislature generally makes policy these days, and by these days, I mean every year at least since the 1980s:

Somehow during the dead of the legislative night a bill’s final wording gets worked out. Whatever the changes — good, bad, or bizarre — this process is handled with close to the same Pooh-Bah secrecy that the College of Cardinals maintains when it choose a pope.

After the session ends, the few Republican legislators make bold but pathetic claims that they had some influence over this outcome. Then Sam Slom, who really is the only regular, feisty, conservative voice in the Legislature, says the laws are a big mistake.

Then life goes on as Democratically planned.

If the Republicans were an actual force, state agencies would not treat a request from Republican legislators with the same passive-aggressive disdain that they show dealing with some average Joe …

What pressure is there on Democratic legislators to be more transparent if there is no Republican minority to call them out to the public? Answer: none that has anywhere near the heft of a strong minority party.

As I will show you in a minute, a lack of transparency is not an anomaly in state agencies. It’s the rule, an acceptable part of the organizational culture.

News organizations like Civil Beat regularly and often successfully challenge this lack of access. They have the resources to do so.

When the chips are down, organizations can afford lawyers.  The individual who comes to some agency off the street does not have this clout.

The Republican Party is a not a player in this controversy. If the Republicans were an actual force, state agencies would not treat a request from Republican legislators with the same passive-aggressive disdain that they show dealing with some average Joe wanting to take a look at a government contract.

To be absolutely clear, this is not about Republican sloth or selling out. The few Republicans in the Legislature are a conscientious and interestingly diverse bunch.

The point is that Republican powerlessness is the outcome of a long-term, stable trend that in all likelihood will color Hawaii’s politics indefinitely.

read ... Republicans

Council Using Massive Rail Tax Hike to Gain Power over HART, Caldwell

SA: Committee members also wondered how their federal partners for rail would react to the proposed cap. Last week the Federal Transit Administration, which has a $1.55 billion funding deal with the city, expressed concerns that the Council hadn’t yet passed the rail tax extension and reminded HART that the city is bound by contract to come up with ways to cover added rail costs.

Grabauskas said he had not yet discussed the cap proposal with the FTA, and he wasn’t sure whether it had reviewed the latest version of Bill 23.

Also at Wednesday’s meeting, Mayor Kirk Caldwell testified that he supported Bill 23 but had concerns that an “inflexible” cap could delay HART from getting the cash it needs to finish the project as quickly as possible and dissuade some firms from bidding on the remaining construction work.

“I want more flexibility. At the same time, I don’t want to give a rubber stamp to HART,” Caldwell said. “If there’s a way you could craft sufficient flexibility so you hold (HART officials) to the $910 (million), but if they need more you can give it to them after proper justification, proper reporting and full vetting by you, I think that’s a better way to go. Because I do believe … that they’re going to need more than $910 million.”

The committee did not take action on Bill 23 or the separate resolution urging the state to allow the city to use GET surcharge funds on housing because it has two public meetings scheduled for Nov. 5 and Nov. 9 to discuss the matters further.

Rep. Sylvia Luke (D, Punchbowl-Pauoa-Nuuanu), chairwoman of the state House Finance Committee, has said the Council is free to cap the rail tax extension as it sees fit — but the Legislature would have to decide whether to let the city use the remainder for workforce housing projects.

It remains to be seen whether state lawmakers would want to revisit the rail tax a second year in a row, especially after its members just cast votes on the controversial, highly publicized measure earlier this year.

“I can’t say if a bill would be heard, but there may be a briefing on the overall progress” of the project, House Majority Leader Scott Saiki said Tuesday, ahead of the Council members’ meeting. Voting on a measure that involves capping direct rail spending “would make it a little bit more palatable” to his colleagues, he added....

read ... Council Power Play

Council demands HART Cede Some Authority

KITV: Hart Executive Director and CEO Dan Grabauskas said limiting the rail tax extension to $910 million could cause worry and consternation in Washington, D.C. 

"We are in a partnership with the Federal Transit Administration and they will also look at our budget, what we're spending, as well as our schedule,” said Grabauskas. “And then finally, maybe even firstly, they'll look at what revenues we're actually going to take in."

Even if the rest of the Council goes along with Martin’s plan, it would still require approval by the state Legislature. When state lawmakers approved the tax extension during the last legislative session, it was with the understanding that the added revenue could only be spent on a mass transit project.

Meanwhile, Councilman Ikaika Anderson wants the Council, not the HART board, to have final approval over change orders, or perhaps ban any more change orders altogether. He said that could be the only way for the Council to have direct control over some aspects of the project.

"If we have any differences of opinion with a council-appointed member of HART, we need to wait until that member is up for reconfirmation at the end of their term and then possibly appoint someone else," Anderson said while questioning Caldwell. “But I would like to see the council get more involved, at least in the change orders, and would look forward to that discussion with your administration and with HART."

The Budget Committee didn’t take the second of three required votes on Bill 23 Wednesday since Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi has scheduled two community meetings to gather more public input. Those meetings are scheduled on Nov. 5 and Nov. 9 at Kapolei Hale and Washington Middle School respectively. Both meetings are set to begin at 5:30 p.m.

read ... Massive Tax Hike

Solar Schemers file lawsuit seeking injunction on rooftop solar decision

PBN: The Alliance for Solar Choice, which is made up of national solar firms, including both SolarCity and Sunrun which operate in Hawaii, has filed a lawsuit that challenges a recent Hawaii Public Utilities Commission’s decision to cap net metering to existing customers. The controversial program that has been one of the main drivers behind the record-breaking growth of rooftop solar in the state, the solar group said Wednesday.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction on the decision, and alleges that the PUC exceeded its statutory authority, violated state and federal law and violated constitutional due process requirements....

read ... Lawsuit

$3M to Be Wasted Removing World's Second Most Productive Telescope

SA: “It will be completely removed and the site will be restored and not used anymore,” said Guenther Hasinger, director of the Institute for Astronomy of the University of Hawaii at Manoa....

The Caltech Submillimeter Observatory has already stopped operations and started the decommissioning process along with the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s Hoku Kea telescope.

The UKIRT Observatory began operations in 1979. It was built and operated by science agencies of the United Kingdom. After the U.K. said funding would stop, Hasinger said, the university took it over in 2014 and it is being operated as a research partnership involving UH, the University of Arizona and Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co.

Hasinger said it will be six or seven years before the observatory is removed at an estimated cost of as much as $3 million. The money has already been provided by the United Kingdom, he said.

read ... $3M

Honolulu Police Commission says it lacks 'evidence' to put police chief on leave

HNN: The chairman of the Honolulu Police Commission said the body won’t put Police Chief Louis Keahola on paid leave because they have “no evidence” of a federal criminal investigation targeting the chief.

Hawaii News Now and other media have reported on a federal probe into the chief, which is being led by a special prosecutor from out of state.

But Ron Taketa, chairman of the commission, said the body can’t respond to “rumors” and put the chief on leave without cause.

He said the commission has asked the FBI about the investigation, but the FBI has not confirmed any such probe. (Standard procedure for FBI.)

He also said the commission has asked the police chief whether he knows if he’s a target and he said he does not know. (See next story!)

read ... On Leave

But Chief has Already Admitted to being under investigation by FBI--according to top police sources 

HNN Oct 16, 2015: ...Louis Kealoha, Honolulu's embattled police chief, has addressed the federal criminal investigation targeting him and his wife for the first time, telling a closed-door meeting of top police officials he's done nothing wrong, sources told Hawaii News Now. 

The chief tried to downplay the situation at an internal meeting of police brass this week, sources said, even as a special federal prosecutor has been brought in from California to oversee the criminal probe against him....

Kealoha has declined to comment on the federal probe but spoke briefly about it to a command meeting of top officers Wednesday at HPD headquarters.

read ... Ooops

Maui police officers arrested in bribery, theft cases

SA: Two Maui police officers are under investigation in separate incidents.

Chase K. Keliipaakaua, 29, from Kihei, was arrested Wednesday for bribing a witness and first-degree hindering prosecution....

On Oct. 1, Anthony Maldonado, 26, of Makawao was arrested for second-degree theft....

read ... Just Another Day in the Nei

Hawaii Panel to Keep Prisoners From Reoffending Does Nothing — And Never Has

CB: Nearly six years after it was established by the Legislature, the state’s Re-entry Commission is failing to fulfill its job of overseeing programs to help Hawaii’s inmates stay out of prison after they’re released.

The commission has only met once since 2013. That’s because eight seats on the 10-member commission have been empty for more than three years.

Under Act 76, the governor, the Senate president and the House speaker were tasked to select a slate of new members in 2012. But they have mostly neglected that mandate — although then-Gov. Neil Abercrombie made two of the three appointments he was responsible for.

As a result, the commission has been unable to hold quarterly meetings, as specified by the statute, let alone work with the Hawaii Department of Public Safety to develop effective re-entry policies.

State Sen. Will Espero, who wrote Act 24 — which established the commission on Jan. 1, 2010 — holds the Public Safety Department accountable for the neglect....

read ... Do Nothing

Ige nominates pair to circuit court posts

SA: District Judge Shirley Kawamura was nominated to the Circuit Court on Oahu, and Family Court District Judge Melvin Fujino was named to the Circuit Court on Hawaii island.

read ... Appointed

Maui woman sues DOE for lack of deaf services for students

HNN: A Maui mother is suing the Department of Education, claiming it's unable to provide the deaf and hard-of-hearing services that her daughter needs....

There are approximately 300 deaf and hard of hearing students in Hawaii public schools. The DOE says it offers specialized programs to meet each child's specific needs.

SA: Partnerships bring learning disabilities services to the Pacific

read ... Sue DoE

Refusing Shelter, Homeless Scatter to Kewalo

HNN: The park directly behind Kewalo Basin Harbor off Ala Moana Boulevard is becoming one of Honolulu's newest homeless encampments.

"It's kind of an eyesore for a nice beach park like this," said resident Bailey Tacub.

Tacub surfs at Kewalo Basin three days a week, and said the previously pristine park is going downhill fast.

"The trash cans are definitely getting kind of dirty, especially the showers, too. They're leaving their trash there," he said.

Hawaii News Now counted more than two dozen tents at Kewalo Basin on Wednesday.

Down the road at, Kakaako Beach Park, 23 tents were scattered across the lawn.

read ... Scattered

UH needs to force Ganot's hand on signing contract

SA: Eran Ganot was introduced as the University of Hawaii men's basketball coach April 9 and since that time we've been told that his contract is "almost done."

Word, time and again, has been, according to UH officials, that the major terms have long been completed and "there are just some small language issues left to tie up." ...

Rep. Isaac Choy (D, Manoa), has scheduled an informational briefing Tuesday at the capitol on the subject of UH contracts.

These days, as recent headlines remind us, contracts are not one of UH's many areas of laudable endeavor. Coaches contracts in particular have become an ATM for the recipients and it would behoove the school not to give lawmakers more material for examination.

Especially while UH is in the process of cutting the first installments of $700,000 in checks to former men's basketball coach Gib Arnold and his attorneys.

read ... Ferd's Words

Activation of Aiea Public Library’s PV panels could take months

KHON: Aiea Neighborhood Board member Ron Mobley says the Aiea Public Library has been a topic of discussion for more than a year.

“(It’s) got all this equipment installed and still you can’t turn it on,” he said. “How much money have we lost? We the people, because we paid for the building. We paid for all of it. I mean, it’s our tax money and now we are paying for the additional electric because they won’t turn them on.”

read ... Activation of Aiea Public Library’s PV panels could take months

Kauai Voluntary Pesticide Disclosure program to go Statewide

CB: ...the state Department of Agriculture is looking to introduce an even more modest reform measure, a statewide adaptation of an effort that until now has been limited to Kauai — the cheerfully titled “Good Neighbor Program.”

Under Good Neighbor, agricultural interests on the Garden Isle voluntarily disclose, after the fact, the amount and types of pesticides they use each month. They also establish 100-foot buffer zones around pesticide applications, and, upon request, will notify those close by before spraying begins....

(anti-GMO activists with 'information' = false correlation)

read ... Civil Beat Whines About GMOs Some More

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