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Tuesday, December 8, 2015
December 8, 2015 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:58 PM :: 3733 Views

GEMS: Electric Ratepayers Pay Millions for Nothing

Evenwel: Will Supreme Court Overturn 50 Years of Hawaii Apportionment Law?

Nai Aupuni: The View from Outside the Hawaii Bubble

Debating Inouye on Jones Act

Hawaii Congressional Delegation How They Voted December 7, 2015

Gauging Home Affordability: The Challenge

Does Your State Adjust Its Income Tax Brackets For Inflation?

Existing Mauna Kea Telescopes at Risk thanks to Supreme Court: ‘Master Lease is Holy Grail’

HTH: Scientists say that last week’s state Supreme Court ruling on the Thirty Meter Telescope puts not only that project’s future in limbo, but also jeopardizes observatories already atop Mauna Kea.

“We’re on the edge … between having a profound impact, sociologically, worldwide, with this really fundamental research about the universe occurring right here on the Big Island, and the whole thing just sort of collapsing under an inability as a people to recognize its value and to work that into the future of Mauna Kea,” Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope Executive Director Doug Simons said Monday….

According to Simons, the international consortium of universities has so far shown great fortitude as it has shepherded the TMT through hearings, public meetings, and more. But their patience may have been worn thin by this latest defeat.

“There’s a possibility of it getting resolved from a permitting standpoint,” he said. “But then there’s the question of how much longer can they go on. That’s up to TMT to answer. At what level has their patience expired with the process? For the better part of a decade now, they’ve been grinding through a labyrinth of permitting steps.”

Financial considerations, public pressure and time constraints could all serve to shut down TMT. But even more worrisome, he said, is the fact that, should the telescope fail to reach fruition, the ongoing work using the 13 telescopes currently in operation on the mountain could be impacted.

“I can’t think of any field of science where Hawaii has dominated, or had a sort of pre-eminence worldwide, like astronomy today. And we may never have that chance again, for all I know,” Simons said. “… If we can’t get our collective act together and even protect the master lease renewal process for Hawaii astronomy, we’re talking about losing what we’ve already got and losing that pre-eminence, and losing all of the positive impact on the Hawaiian state and the people, as a result of that. These are really stark potentials. … The master lease is the holy grail in all of this.”

The current 65-year master lease agreement between University of Hawaii and the state to operate on the Mauna Kea Science Reserve expires in 2033, and if it is not renewed, astronomy could be set back indefinitely, he said….

This summer, as part of the master lease renewal application, UH outlined its plan for improving stewardship of Mauna Kea, including a commitment to reduce the number of observatories on the mountain by the time the TMT is expected to be complete….

Precisely as Explained: Telescope: For OHA, it’s all About the Rent Money

Precisely As Explained: Revealed: How Telescope Fits in to OHA's Ceded Lands Cashflow

read … All About the Master Lease

Protests over Mauna Kea unlikely to ever go away Thanks to State’s Miserable 1978 Constitution

Borreca: Just last week, the Hawaii Supreme Court invalidated the TMT conservation district use (CDU) permit, saying the state Board of Land and Natural Resources gave UH a permit before holding the required contested case hearing.

It sounds like just bothersome details, but those steps really do determine the rights, duties and privileges for everyone — so as UH and state officials found out, you do have to pay attention.

While there may be ways to march a proper CDU permit through the bureaucracy, it will take time and there is a greater looming cause of action available to the protesters: the state Constitution. Article XII, Section 7 reaffirms the customary and traditional rights of those descendants of Native Hawaiians who lived here prior to to 1778….

“The Mauna today represents real nation building of the Hawaiian people. Not the OHA stuff. Protecting Mauna Kea means ‘aloha aina.’ It means standing up for what it is to be Hawaiian and for what the kupuna stood for. It is where many Hawaiians, young and old, have now drawn the line,” Wurdeman said in an email.

Mauna Kea is now the locus and the cause, just as Kahoolawe forged the Hawaiian pride movements decades ago. This is not going away; it is a cause ripe to build upon and those wanting a separate Hawaiian nation will work to own the issue.

If the state’s TMT supporters have a case to build in response to the “traditional and customary” lawsuit that will be filed to block TMT, the answer may have to be in the limitations in the Constitution.

The state is directed to protect “all rights, customarily and traditionally exercised for subsistence, cultural and religious purposes,” according to the Constitution, but with the tiny hedge that the rights are “subject to the right of the state to regulate such rights.”

That is a tiny bit of wiggle room for the state to maneuver, and it will get even smaller as the protests grow louder.

read … Protests

Hawaii might finally be forced to include military among ‘We the People’

SA: …just who are “We the People?”

The U.S. Supreme Court is now considering that question in a Texas case in which Hawaii’s decades-long exclusion of active-duty military and families from the body politic is front and center.

In Evenwel v. Abbott, the court will determine who gets counted when drawing district lines for state legislatures, a process known as reapportionment….

read … We the People

March 8 Hawaii GOP Caucus—Civil Beat Gets Almost Everything Wrong

CB: Our state represents roughly the mid-point in primary season: We are among four — the others being Idaho, Mississippi and Michigan — that vote three months from now on March 8.

Reality: The week of March 8 sees voting by Republicans in HI, AK, and all of the US Territories. This positions Hawaii with others who share similar interests.

CB: GOP caucus-goers here will select 19 delegates for the Republican National Convention that day, who will be pledged by proportional allocation to candidates based on popular vote.

Reality: The Caucus apportions 16 delegates, not 19.

CB: Leave it to the feckless Hawaii GOP, by the way, to reduce the impact of its tiny number of delegates by awarding them through allocation rather than as a winner-takes-all lump sum.

Reality: Under National Republican rules, all caucuses and primaries prior to April 1 are required to be proportional.

LINK: Hawaii GOP Caucus Info 

read … A poorly edited article from Civil Beat

Anti-GMO Activists Team up with Rail Consultant to Ramp up Fear

KE: The opening of the state Legislature is right around the corner, which means it's time to start ramping up public fear.

So it's no surprise that the chief fear-mongers — Center for Food Safety, Gary Hooser's HAPA and the anti-GMO Hawaii SEED — are co-sponsoring events intended to make folks anxious about only one thing: agricultural pesticides.

For the first event, set for next week, they've aligned with a motley crew of supposed environmental advocacy groups. These include Honua Consulting, which just got a $200,000 consulting contract with the Oahu high-speed rail project, and a new group that blatantly ripped off the name — North Shore Ohana — of a legit Kauai entity that pursued important public shoreline litigation.

Yeah, if you've got no creds, and no legitimacy, why not just steal from a group that does? Ethics, like facts, are not highly valued by the “ends justify the means” anti-GMO crowd.

read … Ramp up Fear

PUC Approves Another Ridiculously Expensive Electric Supply Contract

MN: The new agreement calls for HC&S to provide 4 megawatts of scheduled power to MECO from March to May and October to December and up to 16 MW of immediate emergency power and removes an $1.8 million annual capacity charge assessed to MECO. Instead of a pricing structure tied to the price of oil and MECO's "avoided cost," the new agreement calls for MECO to pay a fixed 19.1 cents per kilowatt hour (wholesale rate higher than the highest retail rates on the mainland) for the scheduled power and 57.3 cents per KWH for emergency power.

The PUC noted that the fixed price for scheduled power may be higher than MECO has paid during some periods due to fluctuations in the price of oil. However, the new pricing structure that delinks the cost of fossil fuels and power pricing is in keeping with current energy policies and legal requirements and "helps to insulate MECO's customers from the volatility associated with oil prices," the PUC said.

The PUC noted that MECO has paid more for power from HC&S during some periods as well. In 2014, the utility paid as much as 21.2 cents per KWH for peak power….

read … Rate Hikes Coming

Thanks to UPW, Repairs to Public Housing Cost $820M

CB: Department of Budget and Finance is recommending a budget request of about $31 million — six times what the governor sought last year, but far less than the total cost of fixing the state’s aging public housing stock (under UPWs ridiculous work rules)….

Last January, he requested just $5 million for public housing repairs despite an estimated $820 million need for repairs over the next 10 years.

read … Serious

Hawaii Democrats Join 10-State Push for ‘Debt-Free’ College Tuition

AP: Lawmakers in 10 states say they're launching a legislative push intended to make debt-free public college a priority of the 2016 election.

In a teleconference Monday, the group of Democrats announced plans to introduce resolutions in the early primary states of New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina, the political battleground state of Ohio and in Illinois, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Missouri, South Dakota and Hawaii.

read … Free

Hawaii Universities Ranked by Earnings of students

HNN: The University of Hawaii at West Oahu had the strongest showing, coming in 107th of 1,400 colleges and universities ranked.

Former UH-West Oahu students were expected to earn $34,600 a decade after initially enrolling, but their median earnings were actually $42,300 -- about $7,700 more than what they were forecast to make.

Median earnings for former UH-Manoa students were the highest among Hawaii universities, at $44,300. But that’s only $300 more than the university’s expected earnings for graduates, which meant UH-Manoa was ranked 693rd on the list.

Chaminade University of Honolulu came at no. 781: Former students’ expected earnings were $37,700, about $400 less than their actual median earnings.

Hawaii Pacific University students’ expected earnings were $43,800, but their median earnings were about $400 less.

Brigham Young University of Hawaii former students’ expected earnings came in at $40,100, $700 less than their actual median earnings.

And UH-Hilo students fared the worst: Their expected earnings 10 years after graduation were $38,600. Actual median earnings: $34,500, or $4,100 less.

Georgetown calculated its expected versus actual earnings by looking at students’ majors.

read … Universities

Airport Div Cancels Commuter Terminal, Wastes Three Years

PBN: When the state put the commuter terminal out to bid, the lowest bid came back at $41 million, about 14 percent higher than its $36 million estimate.

This project had already been delayed by a year after Larry Ellison bought Island Air, since the billionaire, who also owns 98 percent of Lanai,i had some changes for the terminal. The state had planned to put the terminal out to bid a second time, but decided against it after re-evaluating the costs.

The delay in the commuter terminal and its uncertainty has had a snowball effect, which led to pushing parts of the project behind schedule. The project is now expected to be completed in 2020 instead of the initial 2017 completion date it had previously anticipated.

read … Three More Years

Woman prisoner claims she repeatedly had sex with male, female guards

HNN: …The allegations could have serious criminal consequences for the two guards because it is illegal for someone who works in a prison to have sex with anyone in their custody and is considered sexual assault, even if both sides claim it’s consensual.

Over the weekend, the inmate reported she had a romantic relationship with a female guard in the last two months and the inmate claimed they had sex in a staff bathroom, a janitor closet and kitchen, sources said.  The accused woman officer is an 11-year veteran of the Public Safety department.

Sources said the inmate also reported that she performed oral sex on a male corrections officer several times in exchange for snacks and candy.  The inmate said the sex acts happened while the guard was in charge of a control center that handles security gates and tracks the movement of inmates.

The inmate saved a sample of the guard's semen that she turned over to authorities, sources said….

read … Evidence

Legal dispute brewing between state, U.S. Soccer over cancelled soccer match

KHON: On one side, has the state dodged a bullet over a technicality? At least the Hawaii Tourism Authority thinks so. The state’s tourism office made a deal to pay U.S. Soccer $200,000 in the form of a “Game Promotion Agreement” with half of it due before the event was even to have taken place.

HTA’s President & CEO George Szigeti told KHON2 Monday that “none of the sponsorship funds have been paid out, as HTA has never received an original, fully executed and notarized signed contract from the U.S. Soccer Federation.”

But that’s not the only deal dealing with this game. There was a separate contract to use the stadium itself.  According to that “Stadium Agreement,” U.S. Soccer would have played rent-free. They also were going to get to keep all ticket revenue and all money from broadcast and photo rights.

The Stadium Authority’s only upside was food and beverage sales, and parking fees….

In a letter the state received today and Always Investigating obtained, the U.S. Soccer Federation’s attorney accuses the Stadium Authority of delivering a field “unfit, unsafe and unplayable,” calling that an “uncured default” by the Stadium Authority, and reserving their rights and remedies — this despite the contract stating U.S. Soccer will not make any claim against the state for losses….

read … Lawsuit

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