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Sunday, July 10, 2016
July 10, 2016 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:46 PM :: 3259 Views

Hawaii Legislature: 52% ‘Big Fail’

Full Text: Lawsuit Accuses Movie Mogul of Pressuring Maui Mayor to Fire Film Commissioner

Shady Deals? Honolulu Grants in Aid

Organic Food Tax Credit wins ‘Rusty Scalpel’ Award

$42 Million Bid May Stall Hospital Transition and Jeopardize Union Jobs

Absentee ballots go out, triggering Election Month

Borreca: …Hawaii County is expected to start mailing out absentee ballots on July 19 with the other counties following the next day, according to Nedielyn Bueno, state voter services spokeswoman.

Elections officials are estimating more than 170,000 voters will vote absentee and mail in their ballot.

Two years ago, in the primary election, 163,600 or 56.5 percent of those who voted, did so with a mailed-in absentee ballot….

read … Election Month

Solar loan program wastes millions

SA: A $1.13 fee each month on your electric bill — intended to fund a state renewable energy loan program that failed — has cost ratepayers millions of dollars in payments to bond holders, investment banks, consultants and state employees.

The “Green Infrastructure Fee” pays for a program that never lived up to its billing as a way for renters, low-income homeowners and nonprofit organizations to benefit from rooftop solar systems.

After a year of offering loans for rooftop solar systems, only 12 have been installed. Meanwhile, Hawaii residents have made $6 million in interest payments to bond holders; paid $1.22 million to Goldman Sachs & Co. and Citigroup Global Markets Inc. for underwriting the bonds; spent $1.7 million on attorneys, accountants and rating agencies; written a $761,649 check to California consultant Renew Financial; and covered about $188,000 in salaries to the executive directors overseeing the program.

State lawmakers approved the Green Energy Market Securitization, or GEMS, program in 2013 and raised $150 million in a November 2014 bond sale. The program had a goal of lending all the money for solar and other renewable energy systems by November 2016.

To date, the program has loaned only $385,000. To accomplish those modest results, the program has spent $21.5 million of ratepayers’ money.

Now the GEMS program director is largely giving up on the solar loan idea and looking for another use for the money. On Thursday the agency in charge of GEMS will issue an official call for ideas on how the state might deploy what’s left of the $150 million.

Most of what’s left, about $146 million, is sitting in a Bank of New York Mellon custodial account earning less than 0.2 percent interest.

The money may not be doing much, but ratepayers are still on the hook for paying back the full $150 million borrowed plus $33 million in interest over the 15-year life of the bonds….

As Explained:

read … Waste

Natatorium: 20 Years of White Collar Make Work

Shapiro:  …The grand swimming stadium where Duke Kahanamoku once competed is now a crumbling, fenced-in eyesore blighting Hawaii’s most iconic shoreline as politicians and interest groups wrangle endlessly over whether to restore the natatorium or tear it down to expand the public beach.

Former Mayor Jeremy Harris fought for restoration and got a wary City Council to put up $11 million, but he was stalled by tougher state water quality regulations that drove up repair costs and lawsuits by nearby residents who wanted the memorial torn down.

Former Mayor Mufi Hannemann dropped the Harris restoration and strongly hinted he favored demolishing the pool and grandstand and saving only the facade, but left office with no resolution.

Former Mayor Peter Carlisle said he wanted to gather more information; he wasn’t around long enough to gather limu.

With much fanfare in 2013, Mayor Kirk Caldwell and former Gov. Neil Abercrombie announced an agreement to end the debate by razing the swim stadium, expanding the beach and moving a restored archway inland to serve as a veterans’ memorial.

They said the plan would cost an affordable $18 million, compared to $70 million for restoring the stadium and pool.

So it was finally settled?

“I’m committed 100 percent,” said Caldwell.

“I guarantee it,” said Abercrombie.

It turned out Abercrombie couldn’t guarantee his re-election the next year, and three years later, the Caldwell administration is still in the early stages of an environmental assessment that’s at least two years from completion….

And Gov. David Ige? His spokesperson was asked if he’s on board with the 2013 Abercrombie-Caldwell agreement and responded, “The governor says he’s unaware of the agreement that you refer to between former Gov. Abercrombie and Mayor Caldwell.”

Stepping into the vacuum, the National Trust for Historic Preservation is floating a new scheme to fully restore the pool and grandstand using advanced structural and water circulation technology that it claims would cost less than previous estimates.

read … Natatorium a testament to isles’ political drama

Even With Extra Funding UPW Ambulance Drivers Play Overtime Games Leave Squads Unstaffed

KHON: …Understaffing for the City and County of Honolulu’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) has become a chronic problem—ambulance units have close for a shift because no one is available to run it.

This goes back two years to 2014 when too many employees called in sick, then in July of that year, we were told the department was understaffed.

The problem continued May of 2015, when four Oahu ambulances temporarily couldn’t be used due to personnel on leave, which could mean that too many people called in sick or took vacation.

Then in July that year, a 12-hour shift pilot program launched in an effort to resolve staffing issues, but again, just months later, in December KHON2 reported the problem was still getting worse.

In 2016, there’s yet another staffing problem.

Two ambulances were out Friday night from midnight to noon Saturday. KHON2 learned that American Medical Response (AMR), a medical transportation company, was hired to fill in and responded to 11 calls during that time.

An audio recording provided to KHON2 through a source: “All hospitals are open, unlike Makakilo and Baker 1, so please pace yourself tonight, take it a call at a time, it may be a little tedious for the next 12 hours. But you guys can handle.” ….

read … More Fun n Games with the UPW

HSTA Vision for Future of Hawaii's public schools focus of day-long summit

HNN: More than 1,000 educators HSTA and HGEA members policymakers and others gathered Saturday to help draw up a blueprint for the future of Hawaii's public education system….

The 19-member ESSA team, which (per the HSTA’s request) does not include Hawaii's schools superintendent, will ultimately be responsible for creating new recommendations aimed at transforming Hawaii's public education for the better….

Big Q: Will the governor’s education advisory group make a difference in improving public education?

SA: Education summit explores options for transforming system

read … HSTA Agenda

Childcare study finds low pay, few parent resources

HNN: The median wage for Hawaii’s more than 4,100 early childhood educators is just $9.07 an hour, an “unlivable” salary that fails to recognize their importance in young children’s lives.

That’s according to a new state-by-state report that also criticizes Hawaii for its high cost of child care, and a lack of tax policies or subsidies that would offset the cost of care.

There are nearly 109,000 children in Hawaii under 5 years old. Some 61 percent of these kids live in households where their parents are working, and a fifth live in low-income households.

The report, from the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California-Berkeley, takes a critical look at child care – and how child care workers are treated – nationwide….

LINK: Study

read … Childcare study finds low pay, few parent resources

HCDA: Make Affordable Housing Cheaper

SA: …The essence of HCDA’s proposals is to house more residents at lower income levels, in both for-purchase and rental projects.

Under current rules, developers exceeding standard height limits on larger parcels must produce 20 percent of the units as “reserved.”

Density is allowed to double if the developer prices 75 percent of its homes at “workforce” levels.

These percentages wouldn’t change under the new rules, but the target income requirements would. Instead of ranging from 100 to 140 percent of Honolulu median income, they must be affordable to those with household incomes from 80 and 120 percent of median.

This means a single person earning $56,350 to $73,850 would be accommodated, as would families of four in the $80,450-$105,500 range.

The target incomes now are several thousands higher — up to $18,000 higher for the larger family units priced at the top of the “affordable” scale….

read … Affordable

Enviros Pump up Hype Campaign Against Remaining Plastic Bags

SA: …Figures compiled by the city indicate overall compliance. In March, the city Department of Environmental Services sent out some 9,500 data-seeking packets to retailers, and about 6,500 were returned. Department spokesman Markus Owens released the rounded tallies he said were issued by the refuse division.

Among the results:

>> Nearly one-quarter of those replying claim an exemption from the ban.

>> Of the roughly 2,600 that provide bags for customers, the largest sector, 38.5 percent, offer a combination of what’s allowed — paper, reusable and compostable bags.

>> About 1,125 businesses have been inspected for compliance, including major stores and farmers markets; non-compliance warning letters have been issued to a few, Owens said.

But regarding the environmental impacts of the law, evidence of lessening litter or other damaging effects of the filmy plastic bags is entirely anecdotal. Nobody knows whether there’s an appreciable change in the consumption of plastic….

Stuart Coleman, executive director of the Surfrider Foundation (bought n paid for by tourism industry) and one of the principal champions of the bag ban, said the current ordinance is “going against the whole spirit of the law.”

He and other activists in what’s been (smugly) dubbed the Rise Above Plastics Coalition are going back to Honolulu Hale and hope to see a bill within months begin to move through City Council. Kahikina and others in the city administration said they would not oppose any amendment that emerges.

Coleman said he would favor allowing retailers to issue single-use paper bags and charge a fee….

SA: Other states target bags that replaced plastic ones

read … Protesting for Profit

The final chapter in the story of sugar on Maui

MN: "It's going to be collector's items, all these (Maui Brand) bottles," said Robert Luuwai, vice president of factory operations, inside the facility.

Producing just over 1,000 tons of food-grade sugar in the late 1980s, Maui Brand produced around 25,000 tons at its peak around 2010, and currently pumps out roughly 12,000 to 15,000 tons. The sugar is used by thousands of restaurants and food and beverage companies, and is believed to be used by President Barack Obama….

read … Thank a Protester

Legal Marijuana may add $4.5M to Kauai Crony Dispensary

KGI: A Hawaii Dispensary Alliance report said Kauai may see between $1.5 million to $4.5 million of revenue generated from Green Aloha Limited, its sole medical marijuana dispensary, based upon the island’s 1,689 registered medical marijuana patients, during the company’s first 12 months of operation….

(At $4.5M, each doper is worth $2664.)

read … Keep the People Doped Up

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