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Tuesday, August 9, 2016
August 9, 2016 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:24 PM :: 4483 Views

How Much Is Enough to Replace the Mayor?

Audit: How Hawaii VA Solar Project Delayed 21 Months

Honolulu Auditor Releases Annual Report

Hawaii Court Orders Online Travel Companies to Pay Rental Car Taxes

$188K Cesspools: EPA Fines State, Counties

Early Voting: 62,000 Votes Already Cast on Oahu

Borreca: Back in September 2000, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported how Jeremy Harris won it all in the primary.

That was the last time that a Honolulu candidate for mayor won with more than 50 percent of the vote in a primary election.

Getting a majority means no general election; the primary win makes you the winner.

“The final printout from the Honolulu mayoral race shows Jeremy Harris with 94,067 votes, or 50.71 percent of the valid votes cast,” the newspaper reported at 6:22 a.m.

Can the same thing happen again? Could Mayor Kirk Caldwell, Charles Djou or Peter Carlisle win this Saturday night?

Possible, but tough.

Two years ago, 202,728 votes were cast on Oahu. So if the same number of voters show up this year, it would take 101,365 votes to win the race in the primary. That’s a tough number to reach.

Glen Takahashi, Honolulu city clerk, reports that voting at the two city walk-in voting sites is a duplicate of 2014. Two years ago at this time, 4,762 had voted; this year it is 4,760.

The major difference, Takahashi said, is that absentee balloting is growing. Two years ago, 117,000 ballots had been mailed out this year; that number has grown to 128,000. Through this past Saturday, 57,000 ballots have been returned.

The major difference in two years is that a state law allowing online voter registration has kicked in, so it is easier to register, Takahashi said….

“I think it will be close, but Djou has an outside chance of winning (in) the primary,” said Cayetano, who has already endorsed the former GOP congressman….

HTH: Big Island Voter Turnout “Down a Little’

read … August 13

Grabauskas Sacrificial Lamb—Baffled Hanabusa Rants and Raves as Secret 14 Hour Debate Spills out into Public

SA: The board spent an additional 90 minutes in executive session Monday discussing Grabauskas’ job review behind closed doors. Its members have now spent more than 14 hours discussing the rail executive’s performance since April, and they’ve scheduled another meeting for Wednesday to keep discussing the matter….

…Rail officials took withering criticism from their board chairwoman Monday for locking in the price to build the project’s next 5.2-mile stretch before resolving potentially costly conflicts with Hawaiian Electric Co.…

At Monday’s board meeting, however, it was pointed out that the rail agency and HECO still haven’t agreed on how much progress the Shimmick/Traylor/Granite crews will have to make relocating certain overhead high-voltage power lines before they can start to build rail’s elevated guideway there.

The timing of that utility work could further delay rail’s construction schedule and potentially drive up the cost of that contract, board Chairwoman Colleen Hana¬≠busa said.

She grilled rail officials on why they didn’t address such a potentially “expensive item” before issuing the latest, major construction contract.

“I’m stunned,” Hanabusa said, speaking before Grabauskas, Deputy Executive Director Brennon Morioka and other rail staff. “HART knew ahead of time. We knew that. So tell me why this is still an issue.”…

By forcing the firm to start moving the HECO power lines before it builds the guideway, “there’s a possibility it could cost more, and there’s a possibility it could cost less,” Morioka said.

The response irked Hanabusa.

“I’m kind of troubled by that,” she said. “This is the criticism that HART has had over the years. ‘It could be at the end; it could be at the beginning.’ That’s why people get angry with us.”….

In a March 14 letter, HECO officials told HART that they wanted to have the power line clearance issues resolved “prior to the guideway construction.” The utility company expressed concerns that its requirement on that wasn’t included in the bid documents to build the rail stretches near the airport and in the urban core.

In April Grabauskas called that a “draconian requirement” and said he was hopeful they could find a compromise.

On Monday Hanabusa excoriated rail officials for not addressing the timing issues during their best-and-final-offer discussions, or “BAFO,” with Shimmick/Traylor/Granite.

“It’s not acceptable. I’m not buying it,” she said. “I can imagine how the rest of the public is not buying.”

When Morioka responded that there’s a difference between “administrative” and “more intensive” BAFO processes, Hanabusa appeared more frustrated. She said she wondered why that was the first time the board ever heard such a distinction.

“I am baffled by your explanation of BAFOs,” she said.

On Aug. 1 Honolulu City Councilman Ernie Martin sent a letter to Grabauskas expressing concerns over whether HART could “hold the line” on the Shimmick/Traylor/Granite contract and keep the price in check.

read … Hanabusa harangues rail officials

HECO trying to Milk Rail for More Money

HNN: …Contractor Kiewit recently submitted nearly $20 million in new change orders on the West Oahu Farrington Highway leg of the project. Hart is disputing about $8 million of those costs.

Rail officials also warned about potential costs increases due to the need for a 46KV substation at the Rail Operations Center near Leeward Community College.

The substation could cost as much as $10 million. If regulators determine that the facility is an essential part of HECO's system, then it would bear most, if not all of the cost. But it's not, HART would end up picking up a large part of the tab.

Another dispute with HECO over underground utilities could wind up costing even more money.

HART is already paying about $90 million in construction costs to underground utilities in the Dillingham corridor and airport area

Now, Hawaiian Electric wants the overhead electrical lines near the airport to be placed underground before construction can begin. But rail officials say that could delay the project two to three years.

"I guess my biggest heart burn is that  ... we don't say to HECO you can't keep the decision about how how we're going to do things for the future," said HART board member Mike Formby.

"We have a (request for proposal) to put out on the street. I want to know now. And if we have to put it out on the street because you didn't give us an answer, then maybe HECO shares in the cost of the change."

read … Change Orders

Caldwell’s Bank Job: How To Make $250K In Just Hours A Month!

CB: What on earth can Kirk Caldwell possibly be doing for Territorial Savings Bank?

Caldwell’s compensation for his primary gig — Honolulu mayor — comes in at $164,928. He spends typically two of the vacation hours he accrues each month fulfilling his duties as a member of the Territorial board of directors.

For which he makes somewhere between $200,000 and $299,999 a year. We don’t know the exact dollar figure because the disclosure forms on file with the Honolulu Ethics Commission simply require that he specify a salary range.

But that would translate into somewhere between $8,333 and $12,500 an hour based on 24 vacation hours a year — not bad work, if you can get it….

read … Bank Job

Nightmare for Honolulu:  Three-Term Mayors

CB: Voters in the City and County of Honolulu will be asked this fall whether to give mayors and council members three terms in office rather than two….

(CLUE: Honolulu Mayor and Councilmembers get a 4-year term.  An elected official serving 10 or more years gets a lifetime pension.  Do the math.)

read … Term Limits

Abercrombie Slams ‘Nowhere’ Ing on Kihei HS

MN: Since leaving the governorship, I have as a matter of policy both practical and personal generally not responded to political attacks or misinformed opinion or commentary where I was an issue. In today's internet world, it would be impossible simply to keep up with the falsehoods and ideological rhetoric. However, I cannot and will not be silent when strictly for political purposes Deidre Tegarden's invaluable work on behalf of South Maui's Kihei high school is deliberately misrepresented by Rep. Kaniela Ing and his supporters.

Deidre was the first to alert me to the need for the school, including an appropriate location in 2010 fully two years before Ing was even elected. I walked the site with her; met with community members and the Maui legislative delegation, particularly Sen. Roz Baker. At no time was there any contact whatsoever with Kaniela Ing. He was nowhere to be seen.

Far from simply executing legislative appropriation orders as Ing and his supporters claim, my Executive Biennium Budget for 2013-15 prepared and submitted to the Legislature well in advance of Ing taking office shows explicitly over $274 million for the Department of Education to improve facilities and expand capacity statewide.

"This includes $150 million towards the construction of a South Maui High School in Kihei on the Island of Maui." - Budget in Brief, 2013-15.

Deidre Tegarden was my direct link to funding for Kihei high school from the beginning. -- Neil Abercrombie

Aug 7: Ing is not above laws others must obey

read … Ing Exposed

Who Should Control Charter Schools?

SA: Proposed rules allowing multiple organizations to authorize new school charters are meant to further the first goal; advocates for public education must weigh in during the coming months to make sure the best interests of the students are the pre-eminent concern.

…the proposed rules are still open for comment: A public hearing is tentatively set for Sept. 27 before the state Board of Education, and a long review process will follow. Any newly designated charter authorizers wouldn’t even begin to accept their first applications for new schools until the 2018-19 academic year….

read … Keep tight control of charter schools

Hepatitis A, Zika: Vaccination Confusion And Hiring Delays

CB: Hawaii Department of Health representatives briefed state legislators on efforts to control Hepatitis A, Zika and dengue fever Monday.

Sarah Park, state epidemiologist, said during the hearing that the Hepatitis A outbreak has infected 135 unvaccinated adults. The vast majority – 126 cases – have been on Oahu, while eight more are on neighbor islands and one infected visitor is back on the mainland, she said.

None of those cases have involved military personnel, Park said, because service members are required to be vaccinated. The Hepatitis A vaccine was developed in 1995 and became a standard practice starting for children born in 2006, Park said….

Park said the Hepatitis A outbreak has caused a spike in adult vaccinations. Before the outbreak and during the week of June 13, 136 adults were vaccinated. During the week of July 18, 1,725 adults were vaccinated, Park said. More children were vaccinated as well.

About seven DOH staff members have been working on the outbreak since its onset, Park said. Employees from other departments like the Sanitation Branch and Disease Investigation have joined the effort.

Now, 49 staff members are working on the outbreak. But Park said that with the heavy workload, staff members are beginning to tire out.

She’s asking for even more help from another branch that usually deals with sexually transmitted diseases. Nurses are also being recruited, Park said.

read … Zika Coming

FDA Takes Control of E-Cigs

HTH: …E-cigarette proponents tout the products, however, as a safer alternative to smoking. Up to 98 percent of customers at the Hilo-based “Vapor Bar“ are smokers trying to quit or stay off tobacco, said owner Ben Yegiazaryan.

“My dad passed away after smoking two packs a day and I was a smoker myself,” Yegiazaryan said. “When I converted to vaping, I wanted to save lives. It’s an alternative — if you’re going to smoke, you may as well smoke this.”

Most customers at Irie Hawaii’s multiple smoke shops islandwide also are former smokers or trying to quit, owner Mariner Revell said. Revell said he doesn’t anticipate the latest rule will directly impact his business but worries regulations make it harder for people to use them.

For example, he said, the county enacted an ordinance last year banning the use of electronic smoking devices wherever smoking tobacco products is prohibited. That includes county beaches and parks, restaurants and in cars where minors are present.

“Every time they pass a law condemning e-cigarettes, they’re condemning people to death,” Revell said. “It’s sad that these politicians and regulatory agencies are choosing money over people’s health. Because I’d bet my last dollar e-cigarettes are helping more people than they’re harming. It’s really sad you have the government harming the consumer and the small business guy trying to get ahead in life.”

read … Government Addicted to Tobacco Tax Revenues

AirBNB ’Committee to Expand the Middle Class’ Gives to Incumbents

CB: …A new political action committee in Hawaii aligned with Airbnb is already contributing to local politicians.

The Committee to Expand the Middle Class gave $6,500 to leaders in the Hawaii State Legislature including Speaker Joe Souki, Finance Chair Sylvia Luke, Senate President Ron Kouchi and Senate Majority Leader Kalani English.

Most of the contributions came in June, when Gov. David Ige announced that he intended to veto a bill to collect revenue from vacation-rental companies like Airbnb.

The bill ultimately was vetoed — Ige said it would have “unintended consequences” — but new legislation could surface next session….

read … Expand

State DHS gets federal grant to research paid-leave programs

PBN: The state of Hawaii is one of six recipients of a grant announced Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau to research and analyze how paid-leave programs can be developed and implemented across the country.

The Hawaii Department of Human Services will receive $240,000 to conduct economic analysis and a feasibility study to determine ways the state could potentially implement a paid family-leave program. The money will also be used to gauge public opinion about paid family leave and gather insight for policy development….

read … Unfunded Employer Mandate

TV News: How investigative can you be in eight hours?

ILind: The column calls the “investigative” label largely a marketing matter.

“Stations need market differentiation — a distinction between what they offer and what everybody else offers,” said Al Tompkins, senior faculty member for broadcast at the Poynter Institute.

He points out that not all of what TV stations tout as investigative journalism measures up.

“A lot of investigative folks are doing ‘day turns’ ” — getting a story done in one day — “and you have to ask: How investigative can you be in eight hours?” Tompkins said.

On the other hand, something very simple, such as accessing public records, can end up being a cut above the typical beat reporter, who often doesn’t have time to take a look at the paper trail.

But one longtime media observer shared this observation about KHON’s catch phrase, “Always Investigating.”

Channel 2 locally heavily promotes its “investigative” team (Gina M), but I don’t see much in the way of results – mostly what the Wapo piece refers to as “day turns.” My own observation is that Rick Daysog does a better job for Hawaii News Now. I don’t think KITV has done significant “investigative” stuff since Keoki and Denby left.

The references there are to KHON’s Gina Mangieri, the recently retired Keoki Kerr, and Civil Beat columnist (and former frontline reporter) Denby Fawcett.

read … Marketing

Biogas: A lot of hot air?

SA: … let’s be cautiously optimistic about an impending biogas project that could generate over $1 million for the city.

The contract: Hawaii Gas will invest in infrastructure to capture and process biogas from the city’s Honouliuli Wastewater Treatment Plant in Ewa Beach. The company will pay the city for the plant’s biogas, which, instead of being flared into the atmosphere as it currently is, will be turned into natural gas for consumer uses such as cooking and heating.

It’s a nifty concept of resource recycling and revenue generation — one worth checking in on 12 to 18 months from now, when it’s slated to be operational….

read … Bio Gas

State pension fund finishes fiscal year with a 0.9% loss

SA: …The state Employees’ Retirement System portfolio missed its targeted return for the second straight fiscal year and suffered a loss on its investments for the second time since 2012, according to a report presented to ERS trustees Monday by Portland, Ore.-based Pension Consulting Alliance Inc.

A 1.6 percent investment gain in the April-June quarter wasn’t enough to prevent the ERS fund from finishing the 2016 fiscal year with a 0.9 percent loss. The fund’s assets decreased $422 million over the past 12 months to $14 billion.

The fiscal-year performance follows a 4.0 percent gain in fiscal 2015.

That means the portfolio’s return for each of the last two fiscal years has lagged the assumed rate of investment return established by the ERS. The fund’s targeted return was 7.65 percent for fiscal 2016 and 7.75 percent for fiscal 2015. Money from the portfolio is used to pay retirement, disability and survivor benefits to 118,993 active, retired and inactive state and county employees….

read … 9% Loss

Hawaii has nation's highest mortgage closing costs

PBN: Based on a $200,000 loan, the average closing costs in the Aloha State totaled $2,655 and in Pennsylvania totaled $1,837. The national average was $2,128.

read … High Costs

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