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Thursday, December 24, 2015
December 24, 2015 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:35 PM :: 3378 Views

How Christmas Came to Hawaii

Leaked Email Reveals Aha Agenda

Need a Job? OHA is Hiring

Judges Lead Grassroots Effort to Help Landlords and Tenants Curb Evictions

2016: Unemployment Taxes to Drop 26%

Airport Division Turned Blind Eye to Sex Harassment

Nai Aupuni Leaves Rowena Akana, two others out of Oprah Aha

SA: A total of 152 people were named Wednesday as delegates to a February constitutional convention that will discuss Native Hawaiian self-governance.

But at least a couple of candidates were left off the final list issued by Na‘i Aupuni. And others are not happy with the terms of the event.

Office of Hawaiian Affairs Trustee Rowena Akana said she’s been on vacation over the past week and wasn’t informed about a requirement that she confirm her participation by midnight Tuesday.

“It’s a screwup by whomever they hired,” Akana said.

She added that she plans to try to persuade the nonprofit board to let her participate.

Rosalie Lenchanko, a retired Honolulu Police Department lieutenant from Waimanalo, said she was left off the list even though she talked with a Na‘i Aupuni representative on the phone and confirmed by email as instructed.

Janice Ringler, an OHA employee, was not on the first list released Wednesday, but was added by Na‘i Aupuni after it verified that she sent her acceptance well before the deadline and an electronic carrier delivered it past the due date, according to a news release….

state Rep. Kaniela Ing (D-South Maui) said a condition of participation for himself and several others is whether they will be able to fit the convention into their schedules. In Ing’s case, the issue is the state Legislature, which is in full swing in February.

“My duties with the Legislature come before anything else,” he said. “If it conflicts with my effectiveness, I will not do it.”

Ing said he and other candidates want Na‘i Aupuni to return some of the promised autonomy regarding scheduling and other logistical concerns back to the delegates.

“Realistically, the way they have it set up now, it will only involve retirees,” he said.

Ing also objected to the Feb. 1 start date, noting that it is an ‘Ole night, which according to the Hawaiian lunar calendar, is not an appropriate time to start a meeting….

read … Left Out

2016 Legislative Calendar Released

ILind: The state capitol’s Public Access Room (a division of the Legislative Reference Bureau), just sent out its version of the calendar for the 2016 legislative session….

The legislature opens on Wednesday, January 20, 2016, and is scheduled to wrap up on May 5.

read … Calendar

HART Didn’t Pick Lowest Bid For Rail Stations

PBN: Despite having the lowest bid for the Kamehameha Highway station group for the rail project, Watts Construction lost to Nan, Inc. because its subcontractors were not complaint with Buy America requirements. The company attempted to argue its case with the FTA, which led to a disagreement.

The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation awarded the contract for the Kamehameha Highway Stations group to Nan, Inc. on Tuesday. When bids opened last month the lowest bid appeared to be from Watts Constructors, at $112.7 million. However, HART said: “After evaluation of all the bids, Watts Constructors’ bid was deemed to be non-responsive.”

Watts said the entire thing was a “clerical error” as it submitted its own certificate of compliance, which accompanied the three certificates of non-compliance for its sub contractors….

HNN: Nan Bid $115.8M

read … Costs Going Up

Unfunded liabilities for Hawaii's state pension increase this year and will keep rising until 2023

PBN: Pension funding has been difficult for Hawaii and the state has one of the most underfunded pensions in the nation. Things got worse in the fiscal year that ended in June as the state is $200 million more in debt and that number will keep rising until 2023, Wes Machida, state finance director and former head of the Employee’s Retirement System told PBN.

ERS can only afford to pay for about 60 percent of its retirees, accumulating, by the 2014 fiscal year, an $8.6 billion dollar deficit as it extended retirement benefits to all its former government workers. In the fiscal year that ended in June 2015, the debt increased to $8.8 billion — and is expected to rise.

“It’s expected to go up until a lot of the pension reforms kick in,” Machida said.

The latest new rule is from the national Governmental Accounting Standards Board. The GASB 68 rule moves unfunded liabilities onto city and state balance sheets.

The rule is in effect for fiscal years ending June 30, 2015 and later. While it will not increase actual liabilities or change required pension contributions, it will make shortfalls more apparent.

Earlier this year, the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii said at least 134 retirees continued to receive payments worth more than $500,000 in public pension money after they died.

To combat these mistakes, the ERS is considering an ongoing internal audit system. It has hired a consultant to determine areas that have the greatest risk and are awaiting the results.

read … Until 2023

Anti-GMO Activists Act Without Giving Much Thought

CB: …I spotted a classmate who had sat through the same lecture I had regarding opposition to genetically modified crops in Hawaii.

“We should get a group together and protest Monsanto!” she said without a second thought. My gut sank when I thought of the reaction I would get if I responded honestly.

I talked about kite surfing instead.

Hawaii’s attitude towards science and innovation is lukewarm at best and unabashedly hostile at its worst. When we catch even a slight whiff of misconduct, we are quick to burn businesses at the stake of social-media trends and condemn them in the court of public opinion. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with being ever vigilant for unethical practices, Hawaii is so quick to believe the worst we quickly shut out opposing viewpoints and facts counter to our beliefs.

Without giving much thought to how much we really know about the technologies and practices involved, it becomes sacrilegious—even racist—to rub against the grain of the majority. The consequences of being a state incapable of having an honest and open debate means we take action based on passion instead of logic, and are quick to blame when consequences begin to play themselves out.

Following a theme seen on the mainland, Hawaiian residents have sunk their teeth into the argument against genetic modification….

read … A look at Anti-GMO Activists

Family Flees Honolulu Finds Paradise in Houston, Texas

CB: …After 45 minutes, they reached the home of Nora’s brother in The Woodlands, a small master-planned community completed in the early 1970s. They would be two families sharing a single spacious home, a lifestyle that is far more common in the islands. The plan was that it would just be for a few months, but no one was certain.

To their relief, The Woodlands is an area that goes against many stereotypes of Texas. It is a lush and green, with thousands of acres of parks, fields, golf courses and nature reserves. The area is marked by its ubiquitous forested areas, including a wide array of oak trees.

The Yolles-Youngs gradually realized that they had moved into something of a “family fantasy land,” a pedestrian-friendly “suburbia on steroids.”

The school year had already begun, but that brought some big positives. Sam, at age 5, had been excluded from kindergarten by a change in age-related admission rules in Honolulu. If they had stayed in Honolulu, he would have needed childcare, since both his parents worked. In Texas, he was admitted straight into a public kindergarten. That amounted to an automatic savings of about $5,000.

Just getting into school wasn’t the only difference in The Woodlands. For one, school starts an hour later. But the biggest difference between the public schools was the far more intensive academic focus in Texas, Nora explains.

Makena’s school quickly concluded that she had fallen behind at Waialae Elementary Public Charter School and that she might fail second grade without intervention. They focused specialized attention on her; by the end of the year, her mother says, she made the honor roll.

Scott quickly secured a new job at Rice University in Houston as a research administrator. He has exchanged the traffic of Honolulu for the gridlock involved in getting in and out of Houston — albeit on a bus, so he can be productive in motion.

On the housing front, things worked out on schedule. Within a couple months, the Yolles-Youngs found, rented and settled into a home a mile and half from Nora’s brother’s place.

For about the same $1,800 they had paid for their 700-square-foot ohana unit in Honolulu, they found a spacious 2,600-square-foot four-bedroom home with a grassy yard out back….

“In Hawaii, you can be totally woo-woo and people get it,” Nora explains. “There’s a lot of hippies in Hawaii. There are no hippies here. There are people who are sort of like new-agers, enlightened young people who are into yoga and juicing, but anyone older than 30 tends to be grounded in facts and see things through a Christian lens, primarily.”

One place where Nora has learned techniques to bridge this Hawaii-Texas cultural divide is a supportive network of area “mompreneurs” — mothers with businesses — that she didn’t have access to on Oahu. She can network to think innovatively about entrepreneurship and find resources and practices to help her business thrive….

Collectively, Nora and Scott bring in a little more than they did in Honolulu — but their money goes so much further….

They moved to a place where milk is 53 percent cheaper and bread 46 percent less, according to the consumer-generated price comparison site Numbeo. Eggs and boneless chicken breasts cost about one-third as much. Bananas may grow with relatively little effort in the islands, but they are about 69 percent cheaper in Houston. Oranges, tomatoes, potatoes, onions and lettuce are all at least 40 percent cheaper there.

Utility bills are 37 percent lower in a place where people use plenty of air conditioning, and gasoline is 27 percent less. (Gasoline can be had around Houston for $1.71 per gallon.)….

People in Houston have 15 percent more disposable income than in Honolulu, and that money goes 60 percent further in Houston, according to the Numbeo. Translated into income, this means that $4,355 a month in Houston is worth $6,100 in Honolulu…..

read … Texas is Paradise

Child Molester Exploits Homeless Teen—Gets 10 Years

SA: …Muller, of Haiku, is charged with assaulting the girl between June and August 2014 when he was 23 and she was 15.

“As a 23-year-old, this isn’t a case of boyfriend-girlfriend. This isn’t a case of consent,” said Deputy Prosecutor Kim Whitworth. “A child cannot understand the danger of entering into a sexual relationship with someone. Both physical and emotional damage happened here.”

The girl had been living with her mother and her mother’s disabled partner at a homeless encampment at the time of the alleged abuse, said Whitworth. 

(If only they had been forced into a homeless shelter this might not have occurred…..)

“He knowingly provided her with methamphetamine, leading to her addiction,” Whitworth said. The girl was diagnosed with methamphetamine-induced psychosis and is seeing doctors for permanent brain damage from the drug, according to Whitworth….

read … Price of Being Soft on Homelessness

Allow ride-hailing, taxis to innovate

SA: Taxi owners clearly have the ear of a few City Council members, even helping them craft a bill that would force ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft to play by the same rules. But the Council will have to think in broader terms as it weighs the measure, which would stifle progress and overregulate in the name of consumer protection.

Rather than resist change and try to kick the new kid out of the sandbox, taxicab companies would fare better by adapting to a changing marketplace — one that requires upgrades to reach tech-savvy riders. And Council members must err on the side of “less is more” when it comes to the proposed regulations, which industry experts have described as among the most aggressive taken by a city so far.

read … Innovate

Milner: Ige should hand more money to Profligate UH Administrators

CB: Lets just skip to the comments: “If the state continues to provide extra support, it will set a precedent. every year UH will come to ask for help….”

read … Milner

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