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Wednesday, August 24, 2016
August 24, 2016 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:12 PM :: 3188 Views

2016 ACT Scores: 85% of Hawaii Students not College-Ready

ERS Saved: Judge Grants Restraining Order Against SB2077

Calling All Cronies: UH Has $50K to Give You

Women’s Equality: Hawaii #1 in USA

Unions Eye $1 Billion as State Ends fiscal year with record surplus

SA: The state was holding a record-setting $1 billion general treasury cash surplus when it closed the books on last fiscal year, an extraordinary sum that likely will alter the course of contract negotiations as the state and counties begin a new round of bargaining with Hawaii’s public worker unions.

Wes Machida, director of the state Department of Budget and Finance, said the estimated $1 billion surplus for the year ending June 30 is the largest he can recall, and said the state was able to accumulate that large cash cushion by restricting state departments’ spending even as state tax collections exceeded the official projections….

The state in recent weeks opened a new round of contract negotiations with the public worker unions, and the $1 billion surplus will profoundly affect that bargaining, said Ted Hong, a Hilo lawyer who was chief negotiator for the state during former Gov. Linda Lingle’s administration.

All of the state public worker unions from the United Public Workers and the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly to the Hawaii Government Employees Association and the Hawaii State Teachers Association have contracts that expire June 30.

Prior administrations often pleaded poverty, saying they simply didn’t have enough money to fund significant pay increases for public workers, Hong said. However, with the state sitting on a $1 billion surplus, a significant pay increase for public workers “is a given,” he said. “Absolutely, that’s a given.” ….

In previous negotiations the state and county representatives often would tell the unions that they had little or no money for raises but said they still wanted to bargain for changes in the public workers’ contracts to provide for additional workplace flexibility.

“The unions’ response was always, understandably, ‘If you can’t give our members more money, why should we change anything in the contract?’” Hong said.

“Some people might look at this from a negative perspective, but actually it’s a positive (opportunity) because now they can take that issue of the money off the table and get down into changing some of the archaic language in the contract,” he said.

read … State ends fiscal year with record $1 billion surplus

HGEA: ‘In Discussions to Facilitate Smooth Transition to Kaiser’

SA: …Thomas Williams, executive director for the ERS, said in a written statement, “We are pleased that the court took action (Monday) and look forward to getting a response from the IRS as soon as possible. As we have maintained all along, our sole objective is to protect the State and county employees’ retirement benefits.”

The ERS is the retirement fund for 120,000 current and former state and county employees, and the fund currently has an unfunded liability of about $8.8 billion.

The severance payments for the hospital workers are not expected to affect the unfunded liability because the ERS does not expect it will have to fund those payments. However, the retirement bonuses would add to the ERS’ unfunded liability unless lawmakers provide money to cover the cost of those bonuses, ERS officials said.

Randy Perreira, executive director of the Hawaii Government Employees Association, issued a written statement Tuesday saying the union “will continue to advocate for fairness for our members.” HGEA represents about 900 employees at the medical facilities.

The HGEA staged an all-out lobbying effort at the state Legislature this year to persuade lawmakers to approve the severance and retirement bonus package for the hospital workers, which is known as Act 1. Perreira said the package lawmakers approved is “the most fair for the members — severance and early retirement options are fairly common business practices.”

“We do not agree with the ERS position but now the courts will decide regarding Act 1,” Perreira said in the statement. He said the union asked all parties involved, including the ERS, to review the bill for potential legal problems before it passed, and the union believed the measure was “clean” and would pass legal muster.

“HGEA is currently in discussions with the state that will hopefully lead to a fair resolution for our members and that will facilitate a smooth transition from the state to Kaiser Permanente,” Perreira said.

The restraining order will not have an impact on the pending transfer of the three Maui County medical facilities, which has been strongly resisted by the public worker unions. The transfer is scheduled to be completed as early as Nov. 6.

read … Maui County hospitals law is blocked

Small Business: Caldwell Hikes Property taxes 425%

SA: While many may consider a 50 percent reduction on our property tax as unfair, one must also factor in that our tax has risen more than 425 percent in the last 15 years (“Want 50% off property taxes? Move your business here,” Star-Advertiser, Aug. 21).

How many parcels in other areas of the island are subject to problems of central Kakaako? We are subject not only to height limits but many other restrictions. Nelson Koyanagi Jr., director of the city Department of Budget and Fiscal Services, speaks of unfairness. But while he notes the many unique obstacles that businesses face in central Kakkaako, he does not address the unfairness of the property tax assessment because these factors are not calculated into our values.

Due to a dispute with the Kakaako Land Co., we have been abandoned. Yet the city paved the road for developers on Waimanu Street, which is owned by Kakaako Land Co. Fair or unfair?

read … Caldwell

Promising HPD Expose Devolves into rehash of Domestic Violence and Civil Suits

SA: …there is a startling level of dubious conduct among some officers and little assurance that appropriate discipline is carried out.

At its core, the problem at HPD is one of secrecy. The department has never conducted itself with sufficient disclosure about its internal affairs, and without a healthy degree of transparency about its self-governance, the public can’t have the confidence that it needs in its police….

The count includes various offenses, but complaints of domestic violence have produced some of the most outrage….

Police Chief Louis Kealoha promoted a major with a domestic-violence history to assistant chief; the uproar forced that decision to be reversed…..

The department countered that the tally of lawsuits does not mirror actual malfeasance, as police are prey to such accusations.

Civil suits comprised 241 cases in all, the largest portion of the total by far, and certainly there are many among them in which the allegations against police were not borne out….

(Let not talk about police protection of drugs, gambling and prostitution.  Nope.)

read … Improve police accountability to public

HPD’s body camera program still under development

KHON: …Right now, police say they’ve narrowed down the type of body camera that will be used, as well as where it will be placed on the officer. But other questions remain.

“When we did our control field test, we found that the pocket area on our uniforms provided the best vantage point for stability and for capturing of the interaction with the officer and whoever they’re dealing with,” Lum explained. “Some of the issues we’ll be discussing do we put them in the district that has the most amount of calls for service, that way we get more footage, or do we locate areas that seem to have chronic complaints against officers by the public?”

HPD says it will launch a pilot program involving 50 cameras before rolling it out to all officers…..

HNN: HPD opts not to use $100K set aside for body cam study

read … HPD’s body camera program still under development

Three Law firms hired for Kealoha lawsuit

HNN: …The private law firms are needed to defend the commission, its former director and investigator because city lawyers already represent the chief in other lawsuits.

Exactly how much this will cost taxpayers won't be known until the case has ended….

read … Kealoha Worth It?

City considers hiring outside party to audit ethics commission

KHON: …The Honolulu City Council is requesting the review after the recent departure of its longtime executive director amid tensions with the mayor’s administration, the police chief and his wife. Now under new management, many are calling the audit a path toward a fresh start.

The council is backing a resolution introduced by Trevor Ozawa that started as a request to have the city auditor do a management and performance checkup on the Honolulu Ethics Commission.

With the former acting state auditor Jan Yamane now in the role of city ethics director, the city’s auditor said a third-party should be hired to do the review instead, since all of those departments and their leadership work so closely together.

“It would be a very good opportunity to see where we can improve, whether things need to be changed, and what we can do at the council to instill more public trust in government and the commission itself,” Ozawa said….

read … City considers hiring outside party to audit ethics commission

Soft on Crime: Let Him Out He Does It Again

KHON: Bryson Bagio was initially caught after leading police on a chase across Oahu in June.

He was arrested on suspicion of driving a stolen car and accidents involving bodily injury.

A warrant was issued after he failed to show up for sentencing and change of plea last week.

Police say Bagio led officers on another wild chase Tuesday, causing havoc on the roads and sideswiping vehicles….

read … Soft on Crime

Will Sanders Supporters Get Behind Closed Primary Push?

ILind: Despite moving ahead with the lawsuit, opposition to the open primary remains a controversial position, even within the ranks of party, often pitting the party’s more progressive activists against generally more pragmatic Democratic officeholders.

Elected Democrats have generally supported a “Big Tent” view of their party as one which should be open to voters with a wide range of attitudes and perspectives, while activists have advocated bringing more ideological focus and discipline to the party.

It remains to be seen whether the debate over the open primary will be impacted by the recent influx of thousands of new members who joined the party in order to support presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, and who have publicly questioned whether they owe any deference to the party’s platform and internal rules.

For example, some high-profile Sanders supporters have rejected the Democratic nominee and instead declared their backing for Green Party candidate Jill Stein, despite party rules which make public support of a rival candidate grounds for possible censure or expulsion. This is reflected in a lively online debate in social media over whether those who signed membership cards in order to back Sanders in the party caucuses should now be required to resign from the party if they publicly throw their support to the Green candidate.

read … Closed

Tired of transplants who try to change Hawaii

MN: …I'm tired of people who come to Hawaii and try to change it to be like where they came from. Hope these people who complained about cane burning will we satisfied with the dust.

This is what all local people knew would happen….

read … Dust

Papahanaumokuakea: Expansion Will Harm Hawaii’s One Sustainable Business

HB: …the expansion will harm Hawaii’s fishing industry, and potentially make it more expensive to “buy local.” This could cause Hawaii to rely more on mainland imports, says Mike Irish, owner of Diamond Head Seafood, Halm’s Enterprise and Keoki’s Lau Lau.

“All the fishermen of the state of Hawaii will be impacted. All the fish that is caught here, over 80 percent is eaten by us,” explains Irish. “It’s our one sustainable industry we have today and they want to start taking that away from us.”

The proposed expansion would protect the many ahi who cross the area, prohibiting commercial fishing vessels from entering Papahanaumokuakea.

read … Sustainable

Green Energy: “Really just an expensive way of making the tree-huggers feel good about themselves.” 

IM:“There has been a big push to develop alternative forms of energy--so-called green energy--from renewable sources. That's a big mistake. To begin with, the whole push for renewable energy is being driven by the wrong motivation, the mistaken belief that global climate change is being caused by carbon emissions. If you don't buy that--and I don't--then what we have is really just an expensive way of making the tree-huggers feel good about themselves.”

read … Feel Good

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