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Friday, August 12, 2016
August 12, 2016 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:42 PM :: 4603 Views

Honolulu Most Expensive in USA--$100 worth only $80

India Parliament: War-Torn Kashmir is Approved as Site for Thirty Meter Telescope

Two Years After Ousting Apple, Lassner forces to Appoint Himself UH Manoa Chancellor

Hawaii: Fewest Malpractice Suits Per Capita

ESAs: How to increase school funding without raising taxes

It was 118 years ago today: Hawaii Becomes US Territory

Kouchi Facing Senate Revolt—Caldwell’s GE Tax Hike Hangs in Balance?

SA: …Kauai Senate President Ron Kouchi, who took control by overthrowing Kalihi Democrat Sen. Donna Mercado Kim in May 2015, must now focus on his own mini revolt.

Four senators, including Kim, have written to Kouchi complaining that he is pushing the Senate to intervene in a lawsuit regarding the state Public Utilities Commission.

Kouchi is unhappy with the way Gov. David Ige appointed PUC attorney Tom Gorak as a member of the PUC, saying he thought the appointment should wait until the Senate could confirm or reject the nomination.

When former PUC chairwoman Hermina Morita, also a Kauai Democrat, did sue, Kouchi had the Senate lawyers file an amicus brief, essentially pulling the Senate into the dispute.

But there was no caucus meeting, no vote taken and senators are thinking Kouchi assumes they are so many potted palms.

“As a former Senate President, I am concerned that such a decision was made without convening the caucus,” wrote Kim.

In the past, Kim reminded Kouchi, the Senate leaders would meet on “matters of such magnitude,” giving them an opportunity “to deliberate or engage in discussion.”

Although the Senate gives Kouchi power to handle day-to-day details, “it does not give the Senate President carte blanche authority to make major decisions that impact the Senate without some opportunity for input, comment and adequate notice,” Kim wrote.

Longtime Kaimuki-Palolo Democrat Sen. Les Ihara wrote Kouchi saying, “I will and do object to Senate action on this matter.”

In an email to fellow senators, Sen. Gil Riviere said, “If we have a conversation and agree to go forward, I can hardly complain; but I am uncomfortable watching the Senate put forth a legal position that was never discussed and agreed upon.”….

Kouchi has already shown he is willing to play politics to keep his Senate presidency.

The Big Island’s Hilo Tribune-Herald reported that Hawaii County Councilman Greggor Ilagan got $500 from Kouchi and Kouchi organized a Honolulu fundraiser for Ilagan, who is running against incumbent Sen. Russell Ruderman, who voted against Kouchi in last year’s reorganization.

Face-saving for Kouchi is not that important, but reorganizing the Senate is. There are many veteran senators who are hungry to move up the food chain, with the most enticing nibble being Sen. Jill Tokuda’s chairmanship of Ways and Means, control of the state budget and whether or not the Legislature approves another rail bailout.   (Translation: GE Tax Hike)

June 29, 2016: Tokuda on GE Tax Hike “They shouldn’t even try.” 

read … Senators object to Kouchi’s unilateral action on PUC

Sweetheart Deal: Lawmakers Ignore Risk to ERS

SA: …The extra benefits were wholly unwarranted, given that virtually all the employees of Maui Memorial Medical Center, Kula Hospital and Lanai Community Hospital would have retained their jobs in the privatization deal, which would turn over the reins to Kaiser Permanente.

Regardless, the Legislature passed SB 2077 anyway. An overwhelming majority voted in favor, arguing that it was needed to preserve the privatization deal.

But when weighed in balance against the risk — the danger of further financial losses to the state’s Employees’ Retirement System, already hobbled by unfunded liabilities — protecting the ERS clearly deserved the greater consideration.

The fact that lawmakers charged ahead, despite the irrefutable legal problems identified in the bill, was plainly aimed at satisfying a powerful labor union during an election year. This happened despite the availability of an alternative path forward that achieved a better balance.

Rather than being viewed as a safe election-year decision, SB 2077 should give the taxpayers pause. This act provides a reason for voters at least to consider competing candidates for office when they assess the performance of their lawmakers in the primary election polling booth on Saturday.

SB 2077 gave employees in the Maui-hospitals transition a choice of severance benefits. But that provision would violate a tax regulation governing the state ERS, said the fund’s attorneys, and that breach would endanger the tax-exempt status of the entire retirement fund.

That was the reason Gov. David Ige vetoed the bill, warning legislators in no uncertain terms of the risk. He instead proposed an alternative that could have achieved a compromise with the unions — an alternative that lawmakers ignored. Instead, they overrode the veto, and the bill was enacted.

The ERS administrators this week were left with little choice but to seek relief through the courts, and have sued to protect the fund from potential loss of status and the hefty added tax burden that would result….

read … Lawmakers ignore risk to ERS

‘Running on empty’ — Many bumps and stalls in hospital management transition

LN: The transition of Maui's public hospitals to private management by Kaiser Permanente Hawaii hit another bump on July 29. At that time the parties in an ongoing federal lawsuit brought by the United Public Workers (UPW) against the state issued a fourth joint status report. The document pushes the date to reach an agreement back to Aug. 18. If the parties can agree by then, it would lift an injunction set by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals delaying the transfer.

A July 1 date was initially set for Kaiser to assume the management role. It was later extended to Aug. 1, pending the resolution of the legal dispute, and now has been further extended until the 18th.

"The parties expect this will be the last and final extension and do not at this time expect to ask for another," the joint statement said. In addition, the lawyers for the state and the UPW requested that other conditions set by the court remain in place pending the filing of the fifth, and presumably final, status report….

A reliable source close to the ongoing negotiations said that the delays are costing Kaiser $500,000 every two weeks….

read … Running on Empty

Djou Outraises Caldwell 4-to-1

CB: The former congressman received over $40,000 in campaign contributions since July 30, according to a Campaign Spending Commission filing Wednesday.

That compares with just over $10,000 for incumbent Kirk Caldwell during the same period.

Djou received contributions from 25 individuals or groups. Big spenders included heiress Abigail Kawananakoa and MacNaughton Group executive Eric Tema, who each gave $4,000.

CB: Take A Ride On The Honolulu Rail Route Alternatives

read … Outraise

It Pays To Be An Incumbent In The Hawaii Legislature

CB: Most incumbents in the Hawaii Legislature have huge campaign finance advantages this election cycle, often doubling or tripling their challengers’ total contributions.

On average, through July 29 incumbents have raised about $54,750 while the challengers have only raised about $12,300. Of the 49 contested legislative races in this election, 42 incumbents have raised more than their challengers.

There are a few notable exceptions. Deidre Tegarden, who is running for House District 11 in South Maui, has raised about $36,000 more than incumbent Rep. Kaniela Ing....

read … Money

Council Rides to Rescue: Kakaako Repair Shop Taxed $33K per Year by Caldwell Regime

KHON: …We asked councilwoman Carol Fukunaga who introduced the bill, and she says Kakaako small business owners have been suffering long enough, and this is a way to help keep them afloat.

Frank Young owns K&Y Auto Service on Kawaiahao Street. He says his property taxes have been skyrocketing over the last few years.

“I’m paying $33,000 a year for a repair shop property. It was just getting insane,” he said. “No matter how I try to cut my expenses and create efficiencies and fix more cars, I cannot keep up the pace from which the city was raising my property taxes.”

Young just turned in his paperwork to apply for that 50-percent reduction and he says that will go a long way in keeping him in business.

read … Saved from Caldwell

OHA: Obama Won’t Ignore our Grab for Papahanaumokuakea

KGI: …The bid for Native Hawaiian sovereignty and OHA’s work with the United States Federal Emergency Management Agency and Department of Homeland Security were also part of the talks during the meeting at Wilcox Elementary School attended by about 70 people.

Keola Lindsey, OHA’s Papahanaumokuakea program manager, took the microphone to explain the monument expansion proposition, particularly in light of the potential OHA management.

“This is making sure our people’s voices are heard,” Lindsey said.

Lindsey explained the feedback received from the Obama Administration’s recent meetings has been compiled and given to presidential advisers. The rest of the timeline is up to the Obama Administration. (Translation: OHA’s grab for control is entirely up to Obama.)

Several speakers posed a scenario of approval of the expansion without OHA being elevated to co-trustee status and their concerns with that scenario, but Lindsey said that is “unlikely.”  (Dream on.)

“They’d be ignoring an avalanche of input on the subject,” Lindsey said. “That they would expand without our input is highly unlikely.”  (LOL!)

Dan Ahuna, Kauai’s OHA Trustee, said the board made its conditional support of the expansion clear to the Obama Administration. 

“I believe this expansion is a no-brainer,” Ahuna said. “It’s a good thing for OHA to move in that direction (increased management authority).”…  (But Obama doesn’t need OHA.)

Related: Report: OHA Forms Secret Partnership with Homeland Security, FEMA

read … Set up to fail

State Email Accounts Used by Anti-GMO Activists

KE: …Maui state district health officer Lorrin Pang used his position and state email account to assist anti-GMO activists and organizations, according to emails released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

The request — made by Stephan Neidenbach, author of the "We Love GMOs and Vaccines" Facebook page — sought copies of all emails exchanged between Pang and 16 individuals and groups highly visible in the anti-GMO movement over the past four years.

In response, the state Department of Health released records showing Pang had used his state email account to advance the agenda of Center for Food Safety (CFS) and GM Watch over the past nine months….

In other Maui news, Council candidate and anti-GMO activist Trinette Furtado filed a financial disclosure statement in which she claims she is unemployed, with no income other than food stamps. She also lists student debts in the range of $25,000 to $49,999.

Trinette is one of those who celebrated news that HC&S was shutting down, even though the plantation had employed three generations of her family, allowing her to attend UH….

Meanwhile, Center for Food Safety is gearing up to fight the federal government's approved release of genetically engineered mosquitoes in the Florida Keys, pending a citizen vote this fall. The “self-limiting mosquitoes” are intended to help suppress the spread of mosquito-borne diseases like dengue and Zika because their offspring die before they can reach maturity.

As Reuters previously reported — and my own interviews with researchers confirmed — the genetically engineered mosquitoes have been effective in reducing populations of disease-spreading mosquitoes in Brazil. Officials reported a significant drop in dengue cases in areas where the mosquitoes were released….

read … Taxpayer Subsidized Activism

Homelessness: Ige Sets Precedent for Rule by Decree

SA: Gov. David Ige this month likely will issue his sixth homeless-related emergency proclamation expediting projects across the state by setting aside normal bidding rules.

Collectively, the proclamations have streamlined the process of getting more financial help into the hands of needy homeless families to find — or stay in — long-term housing while speeding up construction of projects intended to reduce the state’s homeless population.

Signing another proclamation would address the concerns of impatient residents and tourists who are frustrated with the state’s high rate of homelessness. Ige, however, runs the risk of establishing a new standard in which union rights and procurement rules are no longer factors, according to Colin Moore, a University of Hawaii political science associate professor and director of UH’s Public Policy Center….

The emergency proclamations allow Ige’s administration to waive union labor contracts. But Scott Morishige, the state’s homeless coordinator, said none of the 13 homeless-related projects that have benefited from the proclamations bypassed labor agreements.

Seven of the nine homeless projects that require construction are on Oahu.

Six of them are being developed through the city and county from Makiki to the Leeward Coast. The latest homeless construction project — converting a Kakaako maintenance shed into Oahu’s newest homeless shelter for families — is being done by the state and is scheduled to open in late September.

While highlighting the speed at which the projects are moving, Morishige said Ige’s administration “wants to look carefully” at extending the current, 60-day emergency proclamation “to make sure we utilize the emergency proclamation only when it’s necessary and only when it’s directly related to the issue of homelessness.” …

several homeless-related projects helped by Ige’s proclamations will open years ahead of the usual schedule.

They include recently announced projects that did not have to undergo the months-long process of putting construction projects out to bid, where they are then scrutinized through a selection process before the work can begin.

Instead, Caldwell has been announcing a series of city-related construction projects that have been helped by the proclamations. They include concepts that have never been tried in the islands, such as a four-story warehouse in Iwilei that the city bought and plans to use to shower, assist and house the homeless through the largest so-called “navigation center” of its kind in the islands.

Moore sees how the proclamations are helping homeless-related ideas become reality faster than normal across Oahu.

But he worries that practices ushered in during a time of a declared “emergency” could chip away at long-standing policies designed to bring openness to government.

“There’s a reason we have these rules in place, because they were created to solve problems of having fair bids and favoritism,” Moore said. “By trying to get around the difficulties of bids and procurement, we might be creating another problem and setting a dangerous precedent.”

read … Ige decrees could carry policy risks

Shelters shift strategy to house homeless more quickly

HNN: Jason Espero, director of Next Step's Homeless Services, said his shelter workers who used to primarily tackle security issues are now all trained to be housing navigators.

With nine people doing the job, individual housing case loads dropped from 70 to 17.

Espero says the work is all part of an effort to move to a federally-recommended model known as "bridge housing."  The goal is to get people into permanent housing as quickly as possible and provide support services in that new home.

The city's Hale Mauliola shelter and Kakaako's Family Assessment Center, slated to open in September, use the same concept.

"We are seeing some of these changes so we can maximize the federal dollars coming into our community," said Jen Stasch, director of Partners in Care.

On top of being eligible for more funding, Stasch says this program has worked in cities across the country.

"We are seeing that 85 percent of those that are placed into permanent housing using the housing first approach remain housed after five years," he said.

Close to 200 clients were living at Next Step as of Thursday….

HTH: HOPE Services renovating 11 housing units in Pahoa

read … House

Lawsuit: Waikiki Hotel Runs After-Hours Massage Parlor for Muslim Prince, Entourage

SA: …Melhem’s lawyer, Michael Green, says the entourage usually occupies two or three floors, once or twice per year. He says Melhem is fighting the lawsuit.

Silberstein says she has been a licensed massage therapist and esthetician for Hyatt since 2004. She says hotel officials cater to the prince’s every request and provide his entourage exclusive access to the hotel’s spa for extended blocks of time after hours. She says hotel officials also let members of the entourage select who will service them based on looks by requiring spa employees to line up for the guests.

On Aug. 13, 2014, Silberstein says Melhem showed up for a facial that another member of the entourage had requested and instead ordered her to give him a body scrub. As she was doing her job, Silberstein says Melhem harassed and groped her, then after she broke free offered her a gift if she went up to his hotel room.

Silberstein says she reported the incident to the spa director, who told her the report would be forwarded to hotel security the following morning. When she went back to work the next day, Silberstein says the hotel’s head of security discouraged her from filing a police report. She filed a report and police arrested Melhem.

Following Melhem’s release, Silberstein says she learned that not only did hotel officials allow Melhem to continue staying at the hotel, they allowed him continued use of the spa. Silberstein says she has not gone back to work since….

read … Religion of Pieces

Child Molesters on Loose in Ewa

KHON: …In the Campbell incident, a student told police that while he was walking to school, a man in a silver or gray car pulled up next to him, and told him his mom was in the hospital and he needed to get in the car.

It happened near the intersection of Kapolei Parkway and Kolowaka Drive.

The student ran off and his family reported it to police.

In the Kapolei incident, according to the letter sent home to parents, it happened near Kapolei High School’s gym just after 6 p.m.

A Kapolei Middle School student had been on the high school campus and said a man asked her for directions and wanted a tour of the campus.

When she said no, according to the letter, the man grabbed her arm. She pulled away and ran for help, and her family reported it to police….

read … Stranger Danger

Criminal Escapes Justice

WHT: …52-year-old Eugene Paris had been convicted of escape after missing a scheduled check-in at the prison as part of his agreement in a work furlough program.

The state high court on Monday agreed with Paris’ attorney, who argued that his client’s failure to check in shouldn’t be considered escape because he hadn’t technically been in prison custody.

The court has vacated Paris’ conviction, but Attorney Marcus Landsberg says it’s still unclear when he will be released.

The state Attorney General’s Office called the decision a “narrow ruling,” saying the case doesn’t apply to every inmate who failed to return from work furlough.

read … Soft on Crime

Hawaii debates first Time-Of-Use community solar proposal

UD: Crediting community solar users depending on time of day could open new markets for storage and help optimize the grid, PUC staff says….

read … Time of Use 

PZEV Internal Combustion Engines are 9X Cleaner than Filthy, Disgusting Electric Cars

PM: …Walk around certain neighborhoods in America and you'll see lots of Subarus with a PZEV badge on the back. Every 2016 Honda Civic is a PZEV. So is every Mazda 6. So what is this classification of cars, and if it's so good, why aren't we talking about it?

… A typical EV generates 258 milligrams of NOx and NMOG per mile on the U.S. electrical grid or 120 milligrams per mile on the California electrical grid, roughly nine times and four times the PZEV level. Of course, as the grid gets cleaner, so too will (EV) emissions."….

read … Cleaner than Electric

New Owner for Big Island Dairy

SA: …Kea, who plans to buy Cloverleaf, has a 30-year-or-so history in dairy farming, according to DLNR.

He and his wife, Malena, moved from the Netherlands to work on an Oregon dairy farm that they eventually bought from Malena’s father. Around 2003 the Keas moved to Hawaii after investing in Island Dairy Inc. on Hawaii island. Kees Kea managed the dairy for five years but then parted ways with other owners after disagreements over operations….

Kea’s plan for Mauna Kea Moo is to make cheese and other dairy products under The Dutch Hawaiian Cheesery name on a Hawaii island farm with about 600 cows.

”The long-term goal is to have several small dairies start up on the island, all shipping milk to Meadow Gold or The Cheesery and receiving a decent payout for all their hard work so they can not only survive but enjoy life as well,” the 2011 environmental report said. “Our goal is to change this downward spiral to an upswing bringing back the small thriving family farm to Hawaii.”

Kea acquired a lease from DLNR for 1,400 acres of former sugar cane plantation land in 2014, and has been working to establish the farm and convert a greenhouse in Honokaa into a production and retail outlet for cheese, butter, yogurt and ice cream, according to DLNR reports.

Kea plans to produce organic cheese, yogurt and butter once the facilities are ready. Until then Cloverleaf’s operations producing milk for drinking would be continued….

read … Professionals with a Business Plan

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