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Sunday, July 24, 2016
July 24, 2016 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 8:35 PM :: 3333 Views

Recreation Department Audit: No Way to Know How Much They Stole

The “Turn Back the Clock Award”

UH Law Grads Average $55K Debt

City seeks non-profit organization for Kapolei City Lights parade and vendors

Video: Winds of Change in Education

How Much Money Does Hawaii Spend Per Student?

LINK: Watch 'Clinton Cash' Documentry Free Online Until 5pm HST

Djou has a point, and Caldwell knows it

SA: …Countering homelessness continues to be a struggle, with city government playing a lead role. A development boom has seeded high-rises along the Kakaako waterfront, as well as huge subdivisions elsewhere in the urban district. An aging infrastructure groans under the pressure of a growing population.

Most significantly, the rail system under construction — at $7 billion so far, a much more expensive and complex enterprise than city leaders first presented — will run out of money before it reaches the planned terminus at Ala Moana Center, which it must do.

That last issue is really the crux of the mayoral race, and frustrated voters need to elect the candidate best prepared to move the project forward. Otherwise, rail will become a white elephant stuck at Middle Street.

Of the contenders, only Mayor Kirk Caldwell has developed the foundations of a workable plan (Translation: Caldwell has no plan except 'raise taxes') to navigate the 20-mile system’s difficult fiscal future. He remains the best candidate to fulfill this core mission, and voters should return him to the Honolulu mayor’s office.

Caldwell is facing his stiffest challenge from Charles Djou, a former Honolulu City Councilman and U.S. congressman.

Djou, who served as chief critic of the project while on the Council, has fallen comfortably back into that role. He asserts that Caldwell stood on the sidelines and did not sufficiently fact-check cost projections and other project concerns. He said the incumbent, who once campaigned as the one who could “build rail better,” is accountable for what’s gone wrong.

Djou has a point, and Caldwell knows it….

read … Star-Adv Endorsing … Caldwell

Veto Override: The whole Democratic machine wobbles

Borreca:  …the first open break between Ige and his legislative allies, as they overrode his veto of Senate Bill 2077….

last week’s overriding of a controversial veto of the bill to aid the Maui hospital privatization with increased public worker payments was a big blow.

In his veto message, Ige argued that the actual number of state hospital workers impacted was slight.

“I understand only 191 out of 1,233 employees exercised reduction-in-force rights during the HHSC-initiated RIF process in February of this year. I also understand that by the middle of May of this year Kaiser had offered jobs to 1,538 HHSC Maui Region civil service and exempt employees, irrespective of whether they were included in a collective bargaining unit or worked for the state for less than a year, and more than 95 percent of the employees had accepted,” Ige wrote.

“This suggests to me that a substantial number, if not the majority, of HHSC’s Maui Region employees might not have to face economic hardships to the degree that prompted the Legislature to consider and pass the current bill,” Ige said.

One longtime House Democrat, speaking on condition of anonymity, told me last week that Democrats in a rapidly approaching election year are jittery.

The special veto override session comes after what legislators say appears to be dithering and indecisive gubernatorial action on the Mauna Kea telescope issue, which is added to the homeless crisis, and the mixed-message ending to Hawaiian Electric’s failed merger with NextEra.

“We don’t feel the impact of the governor on any of this,” another House Democrat told me. “Where is he?”

A governor lacking communications skills is not the end of the world, but when the troops fear their leader doesn’t have their back, the whole Democratic machine wobbles.

read … Troubling rift between Ige, Democrats in Legislature

Maui Hospital: With Override, the transition should proceed

MN: By overriding Gov. David Ige's veto of a bill providing special severance and early retirement benefits to unionized public employees in the Maui Region of Hawaii Health Systems Corp., the state Legislature has set the stage for the transition of management to Kaiser Permanente….

Randy Perreira, expressed satisfaction with Senate Bill 2077 and said after the override HGEA "will not be pursuing any legal remedies at this time."

The state and UPW are to file a status update with the 9th Circuit on Friday. Hopefully, the union will accept the guarantees under Senate Bill 2077 and allow the transition to continue.

We've written here before how important it is to maintain the strides the Maui Region of HHSC has made in the last 10 years. Our hospitals are being hurt by the delay in the transition.

It is in the best interest of everyone - employees, Maui citizens and the medical staff - to complete the transition as quickly as possible….

read … The transition should proceed

Hawaii Sunshine Law—Constant Tug of War

SA: …The goal of FOIA is to remove political considerations from the act of informing the public. So long as the information does not fall within specific exemptions (such as “classified” information that affects national security), it must be provided, no matter who may be embarrassed by its disclosure. Journalists and others therefore have used FOIA, and the many state “sunshine laws” modeled on FOIA, to investigate, uncover and disclose government mistakes, excesses and sometimes outright corruption.

Without FOIA, and the ideal of transparent government that it embodies, Hawaii might not have its own “Sunshine Law,” the Uniform Information Practices Act, that requires our state and local governments to disclose information to the public. Hawaii legislators emulated FOIA in 1988 when they passed the Sunshine Law. Local journalists and others have relied on that law to reveal information that otherwise would have remained secret.

The Sunshine Law also created a government watchdog agency, the Office of Information Practices, which has issued more than 900 written rulings on public information requests, often concluding that the government must disclose the requested information.

Without this Sunshine Law passed in the spirit of FOIA, Hawaii might still be stuck with its “Privacy Act,” a law passed in 1980 that reduced government transparency by forbidding disclosure of an ill-defined swath of “confidential” documents.

The result was that the Hawaii government through the 1980s became increasingly insular, with oceans of information, previously public, declared “confidential” and therefore off-limits.

It was Hawaii’s Sunshine Law, and the subsequent hard work of journalists and others to enforce that law, that forced government agencies to reverse course and increase their transparency — however grudgingly.

And government officials in Hawaii have too many times been grudging indeed, reacting to information requests with what appears to be a non-disclosure philosophy.

To this day, Hawaii media outlets and others are engaged in a constant tug-of-war with government officials to extract information under the Sunshine Law. One of the most recent examples was the state Department of Health’s refusal to turn over the names of people appointed to a panel to review medical marijuana dispensary license applications, asserting that it did not want its selection process to be tainted by unspecified “external influence and disruption.”

After the Star-Advertiser threatened a Sunshine Law lawsuit, the government reversed course and agreed to provide the names….

SA: At the federal level, hefty fees, loopholes and other roadblocks have limited FOIA’s effectiveness

read … Freedom of Information Act has made government more transparent

Hawaiian Electric: We’re Looking at all Fuel Choices

SA: …We’ve proposed an innovative community-solar program so everyone can receive the benefits of solar.

We’ve streamlined processes to get more than 77,000 rooftop solar systems approved, and we’re working with the solar industry to help provide new options for customers.

We support incentive-based ratemaking to align our performance with regulators’ targets and our customers’ needs.

We just announced a new partnership with the Navy to build a large solar project at Pearl Harbor to bolster the base’s resilience while providing low-cost electricity to all Oahu customers.

And we’re doing our own reset on fuel choices.

We’ve withdrawn our application for a liquefied natural gas contract because it required merger approval to go forward in the manner it was proposed.

But reducing the cost of electricity remains a key objective. Unlike the mainland, we’re an island grid without access to low-cost, always-available renewable choices like large-scale hydroelectricity.

We’re looking hard at all fuel choices with an emphasis on stabilizing prices and improving efficiency and reliability….

read … Choices

Young Bros Seeks $3.1M Rate Hike

MN: …At the current rates, Young Brothers is projected to make $71.9 million this year, according to the application. The increase the company is proposing would bump revenues by $3.1 million. The company said it needed to increase its rates due to low cargo volume forecasts and increased expenses.

Paul Brewbaker, the company's economic consultant, predicted a nearly "flat" 0.4 percent increase in intrastate cargo volume for 2016. This, combined with rising expenses, would create a $3.1 million deficit for the company, which is why Young Brothers said it is requesting the increase.

While Young Brothers said its operating expenses have remained the same since 2011, other expenses have gone up, including labor wages and dry-docking costs, which have increased since the company must now dock on the Mainland.

However, some Maui County residents, farmers and business owners have voiced their opposition to the proposal.

Sonya Yuen, manager of Kualapuu Market on Molokai, opposed the rate increase, saying it would "inevitably raise our prices substantially" and that the bulk of the market's goods are less-than-container-load shipments.

"The consumer will no doubt have to pay for this increase, and this will impact our community greatly," Yuen wrote in a letter to the commission. "Many of our customers are unemployed, on state assistance or on a fixed income."

Warren Watanabe, executive director of the Maui County Farm Bureau, said transportation between islands is not the only issue facing farmers, but that it has created the most challenges.

"Intrastate transportation is the lifeline for Neighbor Island agriculture," Watanabe wrote in a letter to the PUC. "It is most frequently, the tipping point that forces farms and ranches to downsize or simply leave the industry on the Neighbor Islands." ….

read … $3.1M

The Evolution of Obamacare

HR: …Healthcare premiums continue to increase at double-digit rates. California just announced on Tuesday another 13% increase in premiums. Hawaii has experienced similar rate increases and very large loses by our local medical insurance companies. We already lost one local medical insurance company, Family Health, and the mainland has seen record high failures and consolidations.

The only way for smaller medial insurance companies to survive under the ACA is to merge with larger companies to obtain economies of scale and larger risk pools of customers. This has been happening at an alarming rate and has caught the attention of the US Department of Justice. This week, the DOJ announced they will be cracking down on these medical insurance mergers and acquisitions claiming that they are unacceptable….

Meanwhile: HMSA Insurance Rate Hikes Average 11.1%

read … The Evolution of Obamacare

Kauai Anti-GMO Candidate Funded by Mainlanders, Celebrutards

KE: …Let's start with Fern Rosenstiel, who is challenging Nadine Nakamura for the 14th District House seat. Fern received just eight contributions totaling $4,881.11 — the bulk of it from off-islanders.

The top giver, at $2,000, is Jeffrey Bronfman, founder of an ayahuasca church in New Mexico that ran afoul of its neighbors, who feared “hallucinogens (DMT and other chemicals) in vomitus and diarrhea containing ayahuasca would eventually enter and contaminate the groundwater and local aquifer.”

Another $1,000 came from Keely and Pierce Brosnan, whose contributions to the community have included allowing the beach to be planted, and fertilized with chicken manure, in front of their Haena TVR, and suing the late Cathy Ham Young, beloved icon of the North Shore anti-GMO crowd, when he wanted her taro patch water for his landscaping ponds.

Another $1,000 came from Kim Coco Iwamoto, a Honolulul resident who serves on the board of HAPA, the nonprofit founded by Councilman Gary Hooser. HAPA trained Fern to run for office through its Kuleana Academy. Cozy!

Only $588.11, or about 10 percent of the total raised, came from people in Fern's district, with Koloa resident and anti-dairy advocate Bridget Hammerquist throwing in $300….

read … Musings: Dig In

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