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Friday, December 18, 2015
December 18, 2015 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 8:23 PM :: 3273 Views

Hawaii Family Advocates Geared up for 2016 Legislative Session

Fake Energy Savings? Airport Division Lets Contractor Write its own Check for 20 Years

Audit: Old Contracts Tie Up DHHL Special Funds

HHSC, DoH: Nineteen special funds and two trust funds did not meet criteria

Judiciary: Six Funds out of Compliance

Vegetarian Questions

Rail costs rise another $12M—and More Overruns Expected Soon

HNN: …One of the main contractors for Honolulu's rail system is asking for another $11.7 million to build the first half of the project.

It's the latest of 40 amendments or change orders sought by Kiewit Corp., which was awarded the $542 million contract to build the West Oahu Farrington Highway Guideway.

But cost overruns have added another $110 million in costs.

Officials with the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation say the cost increases are legitimate. But board members held off approving payment, saying they had more questions.

"I think the public feels that all we do as a board is we rubber stamp whatever the staff puts before us," said HART board member Colleen Hanabusa. 

Hanabusa says she worries that similar increases may be in store of the next phase of the project along Kamehameha Highway since that project is handled by the same contractor.

But Grabauskas says staffer are doing a better job of holding the line on cost overruns….

read … Cost Overruns

Building Costs Day by Day--Rail Contracts Delayed Until Tax Passes

CB: The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation will hold off on putting out bids for the final leg of rail construction through the city center until a 0.5 percent surcharge on Oahu’s general excise tax is approved to pay for a growing shortfall on the project.

On Thursday, HART Executive Director and CEO Dan Grabauskas said the agency planned to wait until the Honolulu City Council approved the tax extension — something it has been debating for months — before asking contractors to submit prices for construction….

SA: Rail work to be delayed while officials wrangle over funding

PBN: The delay will be a cost that builds “day by day”, according to Grabauskas.

read … Rail Contracts Delayed Until Tax Passes

Decision to forgo election toxic for Nai Aupuni

Borreca: It turns out that the only way around the U.S. Supreme Court’s Rice v. Cayetano decision is to not hold an election.

So coming to an undetermined Windward Oahu spot next year is the convention of the unelected, paid for by Na‘i Aupuni, the organization formed by the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs to get around the 15-year-old Rice ruling.

Because, the nation’s highest court said that if an election is held using government funds, it has to be open to all voters….

Na‘i Aupuni suddenly had an Oprah moment (“You get a car, you get a car, everyone gets a car”) and said that all 196 people who filed as candidates would go to a convention of sorts to be held next year for 20 days in February.

Everyone was a delegate, if not an elected delegate.

Instead of making a constitution, the 196 unelected will chat….

Na‘i Aupuni got $3 million from OHA, but because it is a private nonprofit. Na‘i Aupuni’s meetings, books and records are not public.

“Na‘i Aupuni will continue to provide information on the processes and decisions as they unfold,” Na‘i Aupuni says in a less-than-reassuring web page statement.

Na‘i Aupuni did say that it will help out all the unelected with a per diem of $1,000 for Oahu delegates, $4,000 for neighbor islanders and $5,000 for those from the mainland. If everyone comes, that would be an additional $550,000.

Of course, there will be many, many more expenses for clerks, office rent, phones and meals to add to the $6.5 million that critics say has been spent to ready the voter rolls for the election that wasn’t held.

Little-kid soccer teams regularly give all the players a trophy for being “a participant.” It is doubtful that the meeting in February will result in anything more meaningful.

SA: What remains on the calendar for February is a greatly diminished version

read … Toxic

NextEra Energy expected Hawaii's governor to favor sale of Hawaiian Electric

PBN:  NextEra Energy Inc., the Florida company proposing to buy Hawaiian Electric Co. for $4.3 billion, had expected that Hawaii Gov. David Ige would favor the acquisition, according to confidential documents that have now been made public.  But Ige is opposed to the sale….

In a company slide created before the sale announcement in December 2014, NextEra Energy said that the key outcome of the Aug. 6, 2014 Democratic primary election was the defeat of incumbent then-Gov. Neil Abercrombie by then-state Sen. David Ige.

The Florida energy giant said that Ige was favored to win the governor’s race on Nov. 4, although it would be a close race with his main challenger, Republican former Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona.

“Either candidate would be expected to be a pragmatic, consensus-oriented political leader based on their track records and in keeping with Hawaii cultural norms,” NextEra Energy said. “Either camp is anticipated to be supportive of a transaction that is seen to offer real benefits to [Hawaiian Electric] customers and the state.”  (Which moron consultant sold them that bs?)

Timing of the sale announcement would be after the general election to make sure that it does not become a campaign issue, according to NextEra Energy.….

read … Expected

Kauai utility's members have each saved nearly $1,000 in 2015

PBN: Kauai Island Utility Cooperative’s members each spent nearly $1,000 less on electricity in 2015 when compared to last year, a savings of $80 per month, the Lihue-based nonprofit said Thursday.

KIUC noted in its holiday e-newsletter that much of the savings was due to the decrease in oil prices, as well as the utility's growing portfolio of renewable resources and energy efficiency efforts.

read … Save $1000

Obamacare: Hawaii Insurance Rate Hikes Among Top 4 in USA

AP: Key points from the 2016 date include:

•The average family deductible soared in states including Washington state, where it was up 76 percent or about $3,500 a year; Mississippi, where it shot up 42 percent and South Carolina, which saw a 37 percent increase.

•In North Carolina, premiums and deductibles for silver plans increased on average by about 20 percent.

•Alaska had the biggest average premium increase — 35 percent — for a 27-year-old male. Three other states — Minnesota, Montana and Hawaii — all saw increases of more than 30 percent.

•Twenty-nine states have fewer gold plans and five states are losing more than half their gold plans.

read … Thanks, Obama

Obamacare: Only 8,000 re-enroll for 2016 

SA: Procrastination is rarely a good idea. For thousands of Hawaii residents who failed to re-enroll in “Obamacare” health plans by Thursday’s extended deadline, they will suffer loss or lapse of medical coverage and possible tax penalties of at least $695.

The failed Hawaii Health Connector caused much of the current confusion. When the state health exchange went belly up, its estimated 24,000 enrollees were forced to re-enroll for coverage via the federal exchange, healthcare.gov, by mid-December.

According to the latest figures, 16,000 people stand to be uninsured after this month.

They can still enroll at healthcare.gov, but their insurance will be interrupted, with coverage to start sometime in the new year.

read … Nobody Wants Obamacare

Caregiving mandates could cost Hawaii hospitals an extra $23M

PBN: State and federal governments are considering lengthier patient discharge planning mandates that could cost Hawaii hospitals millions, the Healthcare Association of Hawaii says.

The Healthcare Association of Hawaii estimates implementing federally proposed discharge planning rules — which require caregiver training to be conducted in the hospital before a patient is discharged — would cost Hawaii hospitals an additional $23 million annually in nurses’ wages. The estimate is based on approximately 2 million outpatient visits at Hawaii hospitals that occurred in 2013. If half of those patients went a half hour of discharge planning, hospitals would incur $23 million in extra wages to registered nurses, HAH reports. The average hourly wage for a RN in Hawaii is $42.42.

The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare proposed the rules last month and could be finalized next year.

read … $28M

Covanta Contract Reeks of Corruption

CB: Should we blame Covanta, HDR Engineering and Mele Associates for grabbing the most favorable terms they can get from the city? Maybe. But blaming them in this case is like blaming pigs for gobbling as much as they can from a trough full of slops.

The real issue is on the city’s end.

The most generous interpretation, the one the city auditor leans to in his report, is that understaffed, overworked and inexperienced city officials were duped and then failed to exercise adequate oversight.

But are we wrong to worry about another possibility? (I called to speak to you about this Thursday, without success.)

Historically, from New York’s Tammany Hall to the Teapot Dome scandal, when public officials in charge of contracts generously shovel money at contractors, they don’t do it out of the kindness of their hearts.

It’s hard to read the audit without imagining a whiff of potential corruption emanating from every page like the reek of week-old fish.

Background: Audit: H-Power Contracts Designed to Hide Waste, Fraud, and Abuse

read … COVANTA

City property appraisal not legal, attorney says

SA: Ray Kamikawa, attorney for Schuyler Cole, said his client will appeal the city’s assessment for the Residential A classification, which applies to parcels valued at $1 million or more that do not have a homeowner’s exemption. The classification took effect in July.

Kamikawa said the classification is an illegal real property tax classification because it classifies properties based on the value of the property rather than the property’s use.

The Residential A classification sets up a higher tax rate of $6 per $1,000 of assessed value for residential use properties appraised at $1 million or more, higher than the $3.50 per $1,000 of assessed value for similar properties under $1 million….

read … Illegal

Dengue Cases up to 160

KHON: The state Dept. of Health confirmed on Thursday, Dec. 17, that there were 160 cases of dengue fever on Hawaii Island, up three from Wednesday, Dec. 16.

Officials say 143 residents and 17 visitors were affected by the locally acquired disease.

Five are potentially infectious (illness onset 12/7/15 to 12/9/15) while 155 cases are no longer infectious (illness onset 9/11/15 to 12/06/15).

>>>View the current total and breakdown here.

In all, 126 cases involved adults and 34 have been children (under 18 years of age).

The onset of illness ranges between Sept. 11 through Dec. 9, 2015….

read … Dengue

Kauai Pesticide Report Delayed to Jan 6

KE: The Kauai Joint Fact Finding Group's draft report on pesticide use — set for release on Sunday — has been delayed until Jan. 6.

Why? Because “Councilmember JoAnn Yukimura has requested we change the public comment period in light of the holidays,” wrote JFFG Facilitator Peter Adler in Update #7.

It's unclear why JoAnn should have any say in the group's proceedings. What's more, her meddling actually works against the public interest. Now folks will have just five days — rather than 22 — to read and digest the document before the JFFG holds a public briefing on it Jan. 11.

Initially, the draft report was due to be posted on line Dec. 20, with public comments taken through Jan. 13. Now it's set for release on Jan. 6, with the public comment period ending Jan. 31. In any case, the briefing remains scheduled for Jan. 11, giving folks precious little time to prepare.

Regardless of the report's timing, it appears the JFFG has found no smoking gun, uncovered no evidence to support the oft-uttered claims that the seed companies are sickening folks on Kauai.

read … Musings: Goose Chase

Ala Wai Sewage Spill—Caldwell Had Nobody Watching Largest Sewage Pumping Station

KHON: Oahu’s largest wastewater pump station was unattended before a mechanical failure there led to half a million gallons of raw sewage overflowing in August….

The city had told us not enough staffing left them unable to check every manhole that was overflowing, but the city’s own trouble call notes that many sites — from streets to private business and residential — were awash in raw waste.

In addition to the fact that the Ala Moana pump station operator was not present at that site, we found out that a predawn alarm about the overflow was going off at a separate facility that was staffed, but no one alerted the person in charge of making the Ala Moana pump station operate smoothly….

The state Department of Health says while someone may be working at the time, but not physically located at a particular pump station, “major pump stations are routinely staffed 24 hours a day.”

Ala Moana is major. It’s the largest pumping system on Oahu, handling the waste of half the island’s population, flowing tens of millions to more than 100 million gallons daily.

Turns out that person was at the Kahala pump station instead all shift. The city says that’s because it was under repair for a sinkhole and broken pipe, deemed a higher risk at that time.

“(Ala Moana is) a huge pump station. It should be staffed 24 hours,” said Marti Townsend of Sierra Club of Hawaii. “There should already be the bypass pumps in place, and if they’re not there, now this is an immediate urgent thing the city needs to be sure gets implemented right away.”

PDF: Click here to view Always Investigating’s questions and the city’s full responses

read … Unattended pump station, unanswered alarm among sewage spill findings

State's largest prison over capacity, with plumbing and cell lock problems

HNN: …The new hands-free visitation area where inmates speak to friends and family through plexiglass has cut down on contraband coming into the facility and requires fewer guards to monitor visits.

Gov. David Ige is happy that prisons like Halawa have solved a long-standing problem.

"Most importantly, we've ended the practice of having to cancel family visitations," Ige told Hawaii News Now.

But Halawa is plagued with basic problems: The state plans to spend $10 million replacing every lock and door throughout the prison, after the system broke down in the fall of 2014.

Millions of dollars in upgrades are also planned for the nearly-30-year-old plumbing system whose toilets constantly backup. On Thursday, five cells were out of commission because of sewage leaks, adding to overcrowding.

"We're antiquated mechanically, our plumbing is God, we're built for 500 and we have 1124, so you can imagine everything is rotted out," Sequeira said.

The lock replacement project was originally scheduled to begin in March 2016, but prisons officials plan to do the lock and plumbing upgrades together, so the project won’t get underway until next October.

The improvements will take more than a year to complete….

Halawa plans to send nearly 250 prisoners to Saguaro Prison, a privately-run facility in Arizona, to free up space during the upgrades, costing another $6 million.

The state already houses about 1,500 inmates at Saguaro Prison to help ease prison overcrowding in the islands. 

read … State's largest prison over capacity, with plumbing and cell lock problems

Feds Fine Hawaiian Air for Cheating Customers

WaPo: The DOT slapped Hawaiian Airlines with a smaller but significant fine for shorting customers on compensation for mishandled baggage and violating its full-fare advertising rules. The agency levied a $160,000 fine after learning that Hawaiian had a policy limiting reimbursement for damages associated with delayed baggage to $30 a day for a maximum of three days — far less than the $3,500 minimum level required by federal law.

It also dinged Hawaiian for a promotion with its co-branded credit card that offered a “one-time 50 percent round-trip companion travel discount” for flights between North America and Hawaii if consumers signed up for the card. Customers were shown a higher fare when they attempted to apply the 50 percent discount, the department alleged.

read … Cheating

Obama to Arrive Tomorrow

KHON: The White House says President Obama and his family are expected to touch down in Hawaii early Saturday morning.  Air Force One will land at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam at around 1 a.m….

read … Saturday

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