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Sunday, October 25, 2015
October 25, 2015 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:49 PM :: 4725 Views

Abortion Survivor to Speak at Events on Maui, Big Island

5 Years: Another Jones Act Shipping Exec Heading to Prison

Jones Act Ship: Only the Price is American

Hawaii Veterans Treatment Court Graduates Five

Pesticide Case by Hawaii Banana Workers Revived

Chief Justice Appoints James C. McWhinnie Oahu District Court Judge

Applications Sought for DLNR Hawaii Island Advisory Council

Ten Million Words and Counting

Does PV Add Home Value?

Aha Uncertain: Hawaiians Bitterly Spilt on Becoming Fake Indian Tribe

SA: "Federal recognition" can be a contentious term within sectors of the Native Hawaiian community, but on Friday, Hawaii's indigenous people received a form of it from the courts....

The clock is ticking to file (an appeal) before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, but the attorneys will have to wait a bit. Seabright's carefully reasoned decision (which is doomed to be laughed out of court by the 9th Circuit) issued from the bench will be followed by a written ruling (futilely) aimed at bolstering the (utterly ridiculous) arguments at the appellate level.

The core of the ruling is (the laughable claim that) that the aha is a private assembly, one in which the government is simply not a player (can you say this without laughing?). (If) This (were true, it would) means there was no compelling public interest in stopping the election. 

Former U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka worked unsuccessfully to kickstart a process through Congress that would end in the federal recognition of Native Hawaiians as a political entity.  (But now the Feds are claiming in court that Hawaiians have already been recognized by Congress as an Indian Tribe so Akaka wasted his entire career on this unnecessary legislation.)

The Obama administration...has laid out a way a Native Hawaiian entity could seek such recognition through the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Whether or not the aha will lead to that point is uncertain. The Native Hawaiian community is split, even bitterly so, on whether sovereignty means any relationship with the U.S. at all....

Big Q: 61% Disagree -- What do you think of Friday’s court ruling allowing the Native Hawaiian convention to proceed?

read ... Federal Intervention

Caldwell Hints Middle Street to be End of Rail Disaster

Shapiro: There are small signs that the possibility of shortening the route is gaining traction among lawmakers.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell still supports completing the full line, but now proposes that the first operational phase, planned to run from East Kapolei to Aloha Stadium, be extended to Middle Street.

He argues reasonably that it’ll attract more riders by including major stops at Pearl Harbor, the airport and the Middle Street buses that can take them farther east.

Unsaid, but key, is that Middle Street is a far better bailout point than Aloha Stadium if costs keep soaring and the Legislature and City Council refuse more funding.

City Council Chairman Ernie Martin, who is skeptical of further extending the half-cent excise tax for rail, recently said he’s open to shortening the route.

Colleen Hanabusa, the savvy former legislator and new member of the HART board, is concerned that after years of promising the project would be on time and on budget, HART still can’t say how much rail will finally cost.

She doesn’t favor a shorter line, but acknowledges that HART may have no choice if it runs out of money.

LA Times: $68-billion California bullet train project likely to overshoot budget and deadline targets

read ... Middle is End

Ernie Martin's Mickey Mouse Magic Money Plan for Rail Funding

Borreca: ...If Disneyland is the "happiest place on Earth," City Hall may be second happiest because the City Council is working on a plan to spend money twice.

Following the "have your cake and eat it, too" school of public financing, Council Chairman Ernie Martin is suggesting that the cost overruns for the rail project be limited to the first announced $910 million.

This would be a cap, but the Council is selling it as a "flexible cap." Sort of a rubber cap that gets bigger if you need more money.

The part of Martin's plan that makes it qualify for Magic Kingdom material is that he wants to take part of tax money proposed to pay for the cost overruns and use it to build affordable housing.

There are a couple of things swirling around here.

First, the Legislature passed and Gov. David Ige signed a bill that says the Oahu tax surcharge is extended to five years with the new money going for "capital costs of a locally preferred alternative for a mass transit project."

The money can't go for magic ponies or affordable housing; the law says the tax was collected for a train, nothing else. To change that, Martin and company would somehow have to get the Legislature to rewrite their tortuously passed tax bill and then convince Ige to sign it....

If Martin is eyeing that extra money for affordable housing, he is forgetting the realities of Honolulu's overbudget rail system. Even the city's biggest rail cheerleader, Mayor Kirk Caldwell, last week said the train cost is going up and up.

"They are probably going to need more money because construction costs continue to increase," Caldwell told the Council.

"What I am concerned about is the last five miles being built from the City Center to Ala Moana; I believe there may not be sufficient money to pay those contractors who bid."

Caldwell spelled it out, "I do believe they are going to need more than $910 million." The mayor was asked if that is true, why did he run a campaign three years ago saying "rail was already paid for."

read ... Rail money for affordable housing sounds like magic

State sank nearly $300 million into Obamacare Exchange before bailing out

SA: Taxpayers could have saved close to $300 million if the state had used the federal Obamacare program to enroll residents in health insurance plans from the start, according to the head of the Hawaii Health Connector.

Instead, the state spent about $142 million to build the now-defunct health insurance exchange and another $144 million to develop an online Medicaid eligibility system that was supposed to be integrated into one seamless enrollment process, but never was.

In one week, Hawaii is moving enrollments from its health insurance exchange to the federal healthcare.gov website, and abandoning its multimillion-dollar investment in the exchange. Medicaid, the government health insurance program for low-income residents, is spending at least another $27 million to connect its online eligibility system with the federal hub.

“Hawaii should never have had to build its own exchange. It was a costly event and mistakes were made,” said the Hawaii Health Connector’s executive director, Jeff Kissel. “If this had never happened Medicaid would have saved hundreds of millions and the Connector would have saved hundreds of millions and we still would’ve been able to bring the tax benefits … into the state for our population.” ....

Stephen Nii was the face of the Connector in several advertisements over the past two years, but even he lost faith in the operation.

The owner of Nii Superette was featured in numerous ads imploring fellow employers to enroll on the health insurance exchange and benefit from the federal subsidies and tax credits that lowered the cost of coverage for employees.

Nii said he put significant effort into providing feedback he’d hope would make the online exchange more user-friendly and accessible. But after two years, he came to the conclusion that his efforts were in vain. This year he didn’t receive a renewal notice from the Connector when his policies were about to expire in June.

“If you really want to kill something beyond belief make it difficult for the customer to make a payment because you can’t contact them or even better, don’t issue a bill,” he said. “That is the nail in the coffin.I have faith in the (Affordable Care Act). I lost faith in the Health Connector.”

The Connector ran out of money to operate the small-business segments of the exchange earlier this year....

read ... Just Another Day in the Nei

Alleged theft from Top Auditing Firm helped fund luxe travel

SA: The former managing partner of one of the state’s largest accounting firms used at least some of the money he stole from the firm to pay for travel and lavish hotel stays for himself and his girlfriend and told his partners that one of the phony companies he made up to steal the money was working with the CIA, according to state court records. (And they believed that recycled Ron Rewald story?  Pathetic.)

Patrick Oki, 46, is facing charges that he stole more than $500,000 from PKF Pacific Hawaii LLP between January 2011 and January 2014. An Oahu grand jury returned an indictment in April charging him with theft, money laundering, using a computer to commit the crimes and forgery....

Some of the false financial records Oki showed his partners included copies of personal checks that showed no indication that they were ever negotiated and bank statements that were so poorly doctored that even a lay person would realize they were fake, the prosecutor’s office says.

The other PKF partners grew suspicious of Oki’s claimed reimbursements but were not able to refute the fake bank records until they called police, who subpoenaed the actual records. Oki also told his partners that Sumitomo and one of the phony companies were working with the CIA when they pressed him for information, according to the prosecutor’s office....

read ... Alleged theft helped fund luxe travel

Rail? What Rail? New Lane on H-1 Will Deliver Real Traffic Relief Starting Now

SA: West Oahu-bound drivers have endured years of lane closures, project changes and completion delays while the state has worked to ease congestion through Central Oahu.

Now those thousands of drivers finally have an added lane on the H-1 freeway that should bring some relief.

On Friday state transportation officials announced that after having spent several years widening the freeway’s Pearl City viaduct, they’ve opened a new lane from the Aiea Heights Drive overpass to Waikele. The 2.5-mile Ewa-bound lane will accommodate more than 2,000 cars an hour, according to the state Department of Transportation. It will also help make the commute faster and smoother for drivers by eliminating or at least reducing bottlenecks at several points along that stretch, agency officials say.

Starting Monday, westbound commuters can also use a new afternoon shoulder lane that will be open from 3:30 to 6 p.m. weekdays from the Aiea Heights Drive overpass to the Waimalu/Pearl City offramp (Exit 10), according to the state Department of Transportation.

“We’re really excited that the residents can start using the benefits of that project,” Ed Sniffen, DOT’s deputy director for the Highways Division, said during a news conference Friday at the Kaahumanu Street overpass. “The project has been a long time coming.”

The department had expected a 10- to 15-minute savings for drivers based on data going back to the project’s beginnings in 2009, when it was still planned as a contra-flow project, he said.

“As we start monitoring the traffic as we go through, then definitely we can get a better number,” Sniffen added.

News Release: NEW LANE ON THE PEARL CITY VIADUCT OPEN, SHOULDER LANE AVAILABLE FOR EVENING COMMUTE

read ... Traffic Solution

Hawaii LNG Proposal: "A Ship and a Pipeline"

KGI: Hawaii Gas recently sought proposals for the supply of LNG in bulk to support the delivery of natural gas to Hawaii, and the provision of an “LNG Floating Storage and Regasification Unit (FSRU) and associated services to receive, store and regasify the LNG for distribution.”

The project planned for Oahu is basically, Boivin said, “a ship and a pipeline.”

“That’s the extent of the system,” he said. “A ship and a pipeline and some land-based pipeline extensions.”

read ... Lower Cost Energy

Solar Industry Doesn't Respect Worker Safety

SA: Twenty-six-year-old James “Kimo” Failing was preparing to install solar panels at a McCully building on Sept. 23 when he fell to his death, a tragedy state officials say could have been avoided.

Failing was not using a complete safety system as required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said William Kunstman, spokesman for the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. Failing should have been using a personal fall arrest system — a harness securely fastened to a taut rope connected to anchor points mounted to the roof, according to OSHA rules.

The rapid growth in rooftop solar in Hawaii in recent years has led to more workers being exposed to the danger of falls.

Of the top 10 solar contractors in Hawaii, five have had to pay fines relating to fall protection violations over the past five years....

read ... Safety Last

31% of Big Island Homeless from mainland

HTH: According to Scott Morishige, $607,100 will be “spread out around the state” while the rest, about $700,000, will be used to help alleviate Oahu’s homeless situation.

“We realize homelessness is not just on Oahu; it really is an issue that impacts every community throughout Hawaii on every island,” Morishige said Wednesday. “We’re estimating that the $1.3 million will assist an estimated 1,000 new individuals statewide to be able to get help between now and July 31 of next year.”

This year’s point-in-time survey, taken in late January and early February, counted 1,241 homeless people on Hawaii Island, up from 869 in 2014 and 557 in 2013. Most of the homeless identified in the survey, 69 percent, have lived on the island for a decade or more.

Fukumoto said the grant to Catholic Charities assisted 140 people in 55 households during the past fiscal year.

read ... Sister Isles Homelessness

Maui film industry rolling in Taxpayer Dough

MN: State subsidies make Neighbor Island production more lucrative....

read ... Your Tax Dollars at Work

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