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Friday, August 26, 2016
August 26, 2016 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:33 PM :: 4322 Views

Obama to Expand Papahanaumokuakea: OHA gets Co-Trustee’s Cut of the Green

SEC Orders Hawaii to Cease and Desist—State Bond Offerings ‘False and Misleading’

DoI Deadline Approaching for Act 173 Amendment to Hawaiian Homes Commission Act

Rep. Kaniela Ing Pleads "Not Guilty"

Special Election: CD2 Republican Nominee Files to Run as Democrat in CD1

Rail subcontractors revealed: Lots of local companies, but how much overlap?

KHON: …For the first time in the project’s history, there’s a public list of subcontractors hired, what they’re being paid, and what they’re doing.

While there has long been easy access to see details and payments to main contractors, very little has been known about all the folks they’re giving work to.

One of Dan Grabauskas’ last tasks prior to resigning as Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation CEO was to sign and submit the first subcontractor report since the Honolulu City Council passed a law requiring one after each fiscal year.

“Prior to us imposing this requirement on HART, even by their own admission, they had no idea how many subcontractors were in existence on the project, or even the true cost of the subcontractors themselves,” Honolulu City Council chairman Ernie Martin told Always Investigating.

Here’s what the report shows: About 50 general and prime contractors farmed out work and paid hundreds of subcontractor invoices the span of the one year examined.

Out of about $500 million paid involving costs incurred over the last fiscal year or so, the subs got more than $235 million….

But the council still plans to dig into the details of why there’s so much subcontracting on rail — things like designers hiring designers, engineers hiring engineers, builders hiring builders.

“There is some duplication of services,” Martin said, “and that’s a question we’re going to have to follow up with HART. Hopefully they’ll impose that on the general contractors, prime contractors, and get that information.”

It’s information Martin says HART couldn’t tell the city auditor when the auditor was digging for details. (View the audit in its entirety here.)

“Our city auditor is doing a follow-up audit,” Martin said, “so we will also share this information with our audit staff as well, and I’m sure that’s one of the prime questions they will be asking.” ….

read … Rail subcontractors revealed: Lots of local companies, but how much overlap?

TOD: City Milks Tower Developer for Everything Except Rail

SA: Plans for a 36-story hotel-condominium tower across from the Hawai‘i Convention Center won a key approval from the City Council Planning and Zoning Committee on Thursday.

…While existing zoning allows for a 350-foot tower at the location, Resolution 16-172 would give California-based Mana‘olana Partners a permit allowing the tower to go up to 400 feet in height. The developers point out that the final draft of the Ala Moana Neighborhood Transit Oriented Development plan allows for buildings up to 400 feet and allows for other “flexibility” in land-use restrictions to encourage building near the city’s planned rail stops.

Other variances sought include relaxation of setback requirements, more floor space, half the required parking spaces, reduced landscaping and the ability to operate a full-service hotel where zoning allows a limited-service facility.

The Interim Planned Development-Transit Permit would be the first ever granted by the city if the full Council approves it, possibly at its Sept. 7 meeting. Council Zoning and Planning Chairman Trevor Ozawa initially said he would take the resolution to the community for a public hearing, but toward the end of the meeting, he said it instead would go to the full Council for a final vote….

(Next, the developer is hit up for money to pay for everything—except the rail station  across the street.)

Several Council members noted that the Kapiolani- Atkinson intersection is among the most notorious in the city for collisions.

“There has to be traffic mitigation to that area,” Ozawa said.

City staff planner Elizabeth Krueger said the developer would be required to submit periodic traffic studies and make ongoing improvements as necessary even after the project is completed. Mana‘olana officials said they were unsuccessful in efforts to persuade General Growth Properties, to realign Kona Street, which GGP owns.

Mana‘olana Partners is providing $7 million in community benefits, including a $2.4 million in-lieu fee to meet its affordable-housing condition.

The state Office of Hawaiian Affairs voiced the only concern raised Thursday about the project when it objected to the affordable-housing contribution, calling it “relatively meager.” OHA, in written comments, said the developer should be required to provide actual, physical units to meet its affordable-housing condition rather than paying a fee.

City Planning Director George Atta said the $2.4 million fee was calculated by multiplying $45 per square foot by the project’s residential floor area of 53,390 square feet….

Related: Savio: Rail Can be Built Without Any Taxpayer Dollars

read … Milked

Hawaii Judge Mulls Legality Of Governor’s PUC Appointment

SA: It likely won’t affect the NextEra deal, but the ruling could affect the governor’s power to make interim appointments in certain cases.

read … Legality

Another Democrat Openly Endorses Green Party Presidential Candidate

CB: Trump is ignorant, bigoted, Clinton shifty, untrustworthy. What’s a voter to do? This one is supporting Green Party nominee Jill Stein….

Clinton is shifty and untrustworthy. Her email tribulations, potential national-security hazards, are the outgrowth of a colossal sense of personal entitlement. The buck-raking Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation continues to pose conflict-of-interest questions.….

A Hawaii victory for Jill Stein and the Green Party would be a far more eloquent message to Hilary Clinton and the DNC than Chelsea Lyons Kent’s raised middle finger.

Is Tim Vandeveer, the new chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, still at heart a Sanders Democrat? Can he steer the party, now bigger and stronger with the addition of Sanders supporters, toward a Green presidential candidate while providing effective candidate support to down-ballot Democrats?  (Or will Vanderveer now seek to throw Iwasa out of the Dem Party -- as with Kent?)

A Green Democratic hybrid, energized by young members, can provide a model for the rest of the country.

Ben Cayetano and Walter Heen, a former chair of the state Democratic Party, have created a hybrid of their own.

“I’m here, as a Democrat,” Walter Heen slyly proclaims on the Charles Djou for Mayor website, “because this is a non-partisan race and the issues that Honolulu faces are not partisan, and so we come to support the best man for the job. In my view, and in the view of Ben Cayetano, another solid democrat, Charles Djou is the best man for the job. ”

In the same way, no doubt, that Stein, as solid a small-d democrat as either Cayetano or Heen, is the best woman for the job she’s seeking.

read … Warren Iwasa

Reforms could ease teacher shortage

SA: …The Hawaii Teacher Standards Board (HTSB) is the agency that issues teaching certification in the specific fields of instruction, certificates required for a permanent placement in a classroom.

Increasingly there is recognition that alternative routes to a credential are needed.

This is happening nationally: Florida, where there is a critical teacher shortage, has enabled online licensure tracks, transferral of out-of-state licenses and other strategies that bear watching.

In this state, a task force is looking anew at certification requirements, given the advent of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, which will be implemented fully for the 2017-18 school year.

Alternative ways of fulfilling requirements need to be part of that picture.

Fortunately, the University of Hawaii College of Education has developed ways of crediting two-year associate degrees toward the bachelor’s required to teach professionally.

UH also is expanding outreach to emergency hires already in classrooms. These new teachers can use classroom experience as partial fulfillment of requirements, and enroll in courses offered on-site or long-distance to help them complete their studies.

These efforts should be encouraged, not only at UH but at all public and private institutions that engage in teacher education.

For its part, the HTSB has formed a working group that is developing new alternative courses as well….

read … Reforms could ease teacher shortage

Hawaii Doctors may skip new CMS primary-care payment initiative

MH: Despite a looming deadline, the CMS has failed to provide physicians enough information to decide whether to participate in an ambitious initiative meant to improve primary care by placing physician practices in risk-based payment agreements. Lobbying groups say the CMS is not being transparent on just how much doctors may lose if they aren't successful meeting goals and that could affect participation in the program.

The CMS said it would release information on how it would calculate payments under the Comprehensive Primary Care Plus (CPC+) demonstration. But there's been nothing so far, despite the deadline for application ending on Sept. 15.

“Obviously, it is difficult, if not impossible, for provider practices to decide responsibly whether or not they can or should participate in the CPC+ demonstration…when they do not know to what extent they will be at risk for repaying all or a portion of their prepaid amounts to CMS,” Donald Fisher, president and CEO of the American Medical Group Association said in an August 24 letter to the CMS.

A CMS spokesman said the agency does not share AMGA's concerns about depressed involvement despite getting close to the deadline and added the agency had received robust interest from physicians and physician organizations. The CMS also has released plenty of other information for practices to educate themselves on about the demonstration, the spokesman said.

The agency is banking on the initiative, which includes a higher risk track, to save about $2 billion over the course of the five-year program.

Under CPC+, the CMS and other insurers would pay physicians a monthly fee for patient primary-care visits. The CMS had estimated that up to 5,000 primary-care practices serving an estimated 3.5 million beneficiaries could participate in the model.

read … Skip

5,000 Uber Drivers on Oahu

PBN: Uber, which began operations in Hawaii only three years ago, now has more than 5,000 drivers on Oahu working part time or full time shuttling passengers around the island, according to the company.

If those drivers were counted as employees, it would make Uber either the fifth-largest or sixth-largest nongovernment employer in the state, between Hilton Hotels Hawaii Region and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, according to PBN research.

Uber says its drivers are independent contractors, however, and its business model is based on that supposition. It argues that its drivers work their own hours, some only a few hours a week, come and go on their own schedules and are independent entrepreneurs. But a class-action lawsuit that purports to cover some 385,000 Uber drivers in California and Massachusetts claims that Uber drivers are really employees who go where they are told to pick up customers, under terms of conduct set by the company.

Early this summer, the lawsuit seemed to be moving in the direction of an $84 million settlement. But U.S. District Judge Edward Chen in San Francisco rejected the agreement last week, saying the monetary settlement did not resolve such key issues as overtime, expenses and rest breaks.

The debate over Uber drivers’ employment status is drawing attention in Hawaii as well.

“Uber drivers are part of the new economy, and the economic relationship does not fit well within existing outdated employment law categories,” employment attorney John L. Knorek of Torkildson, Katz, Moore, Hetherinton & Harris told PBN. “Legislatures and courts will have to address this latest development in the workforce that provides greater flexibility for drivers and efficiency for consumers.”

read … Uber

Hawaii’s Energy Future is Only a Few Rate Hikes Away

IM: The first level is Grid Parity, the point when the cost of electricity from rooftop solar is cheaper than power purchased from the grid. Grid Parity has been achieved in many places including the Big Island….

The second level is Storage Parity, the point when the cost of electricity from a rooftop solar plus energy storage system is cheaper than power purchased from the grid. Storage parity has been reached on the Neighbor Islands.

The third level is God Parity. That occurs when the solar-plus-battery is cheaper than the cost of the electric transmission and distribution network. Even if grid-based electricity was generated at no cost, and sold for free, the cost of delivery exceeds the cost for self-generation and storage….

The GOD point occurs when all grid-based energy sources are priced out of the market. This will occur first in places with abundant renewable energy resources and very high electric rates.

The GOD point could arrive in the Neighbor Islands within five years. Whomever owns the grid would take a bath, unless laws and regulations are written to penalize those seeking cheaper rates, that is to say, an exit fee is imposed on any ratepayer disconnecting from the grid….

NE: Why ‘God parity’ will be the end of centralised generation

read … Hawai`i`s Energy Future is Almost Here

Dolphin Swim Ban: How Much Irony Can Eco-Nuts Handle?

CSM: …The irony is that much of pro-animal enthusiasm, especially toward dolphins and whales, was inspired by the sort of up-close encounter environmentalists now seek to ban.

"We are proud of contributing to the evolving understanding of one of the world's largest marine mammals," SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby wrote in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times. "Now we need to respond to the attitudinal change that we helped to create."

MT: Pacific Whale Spots First Humpback of Season and Manages not to Kill it

read … It’s a Religion

Dive Tour Operators Behind Aquarium Collection Ban Now Make Excuses for Dolphin Harassment

HTH: “Dolphin-directed activities have grown dramatically in recent years, and the easily accessible Hawaiian spinner dolphins face heavy and increasing pressures from people seeking a dolphin experience. Chronic disturbance to resting activities can negatively affect the health and fitness of dolphins,” NOAA fisheries wrote….

A nocturnal species, spinner dolphins rest during the day in shallow bays after hunting fish and crustaceans at night.

The rule change would cause dramatic shifts in how many companies operate and advertise.  (They didn’t mind rule changes which made aquarium collectors shift how THEY operate.)

About half of the tours operated by Dolphin Discoveries involve a dolphin swim, while Rob Hemsher of Ocean Eco Tours estimates losing the dolphin swims would eliminate about 30 percent of his business.  (So they are looking for excuses to continue.)

Opinions varied among the those who work in the popular Hawaii activity that might end if proposed federal regulations go into effect.

The dolphins, for example, were also coming up on the beginning of their rest period, where they rest half of their brain at a time. That’s the time Claudia Merrill, co-owner of Dolphin Discoveries, thinks the dolphins should be protected, rather than when they are interested with meeting people.

However, the idea of people swimming with the dolphins does not sit well with all tour operators.

Kohala Divers doesn’t run dolphin swims, in part because of concerns about what the interaction does to the animals. It’s been a policy since the business was established 37 years ago.

“What are people doing when they drop people off on top of the dolphins?” asked Keleen Lum of Kohala Divers.  (Translation: We want the feds to squelch our competitors)

During the mornings, Kohala Divers boats are sometimes accompanied by the sentries of the pods, she said, but the boat crews don’t linger in the area.  (Uh huh.)

“If they happen to go by, awesome,” she said.  (Yup.)

Lum thinks the disruption to the dolphin’s rest cycle is too much, and agrees there should be an end to dolphin swims. But the distance ban might not be the best idea, she said. The dolphins do like to come up and spin in a boat’s wake, she said.  (Translation: We want to keep doing this so make an exception because it profits us.)

Not only do the animals come toward vessels, the distance ban could lead to trouble with local harbors, said Merrill.

Two popular areas for the dolphins are near Kailua Bay and near Honokohau Harbor, both active harbors on the Kona Coast.

A limited area could put everything from the fishing boats to cruise ships in violation, she said.

NOAA advanced an exception for vessels operating where a 50-yard distance would make safe navigation impossible….  (Oh well.  Looks like this won’t be a good excuse.)

On Sept. 7, the meeting will be at Konawaena High School and on Sept. 8 at Kealakehe High School. (It will be fun to watch them come up with excuses after years of harassing aquarium fishers.)

read … Enviro-Worship is Profitable

Cat Obsessives Kill Birds, Monk Seals

CB: … the animals’ cumulative impact is becoming more than our singular ecosystem and some of its most embattled indigenous species can bear.

Cats are the only animals in which the parasites that cause the disease toxoplasmosis can reproduce, which they do in staggering quantities. Cats pass the parasite in their feces by the millions and it moves lethally into the environment.

Scientists are now finding that toxoplasmosis caused by the cats is killing highly endangered Hawaiian monk seals — at least eight so far — spinner dolphins, nene geese and native birds. Because many infected animals die in the wild, far away from scientists, the numbers being tracked so far are thought to be the tip of the iceberg.

Given that only about 1,100 Hawaiian monk seals exist and only about 200 of them live around the main Hawaiian islands, the threat posed by feral cats must be seen as urgent. The threat to the nene, the world’s rarest goose, with an estimated wild population of about 2,500, is also urgent. Spinner dolphins also are protected under federal law.

There may be other effects, too. Studies of sea lions and rodents show that infection with toxoplasmosis results in behavior that makes them more vulnerable to predation. Locally, that could create a higher propensity for monk seals and spinner dolphins to be taken by sharks.

Beyond toxoplasmosis, there is also the difficulty of native birds being hunted and their numbers driven down by free-roaming cats.

In the face of such challenges, what is being done? The admirable Trap-Neuter-Return effort results in about 10,000 cats being sterilized each year, according to the Hawaiian Humane Society. But that’s hardly a dent when the population remains steady in the hundreds of thousands.

Officials with federal and state agencies have joined forces to form a local toxoplasmosis working group to study and strategize on the topic. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey and other departments are taking part. The group had its second meeting just last week.

Already, some are calling for elimination of feral cats around Hawaii as the only realistic solution….

But such a strategy is highly troubling to local animal rights activists, particularly the Hawaiian Humane Society. In a commentary published earlier this week, the group’s President and CEO Pamela Burns decried “a value system in which animals are classified as native, introduced, injurious or invasive” as leading to “a hierarchy in which the protection of certain animals comes at the suffering of others.”

(Translation: Rich cat-obsessives are our key donors and we are controlled by their psychoses.)

read … Cat Obsessives

UH Manoa Incubator of Hawaii Politics

SA: …Throughout Hawaii’s history, the research and community activism of UH-Manoa’s academic community — its students and faculty — has rippled out to define some of the most important debates we have as a community.

To begin, in the years following World War II, the university played an instrumental role in the democratic revolution that continues to shape politics in Hawaii.

UH-Manoa provided the opportunity for future leaders like Spark Matsunaga, Dan Inouye and Patsy Mink to exchange ideas and to develop their early enthusiasm for politics. They were inspired by their teachers like Professor Allan Saunders to challenge the Big Five oligarchy and to make Hawaii into the more equal and tolerant place it is today.

Fast forward to the 1970s, as Native Hawaiian researchers and students on the Manoa campus brought about the resurgence of Hawaiian language and culture.

Hokule‘a and the Polynesian Voyaging Society began as a research project led by Professor Ben Finney in cooperation with community leaders Tommy Holmes and Herb Kawainui Kane. Its triumphant success helped to inspire new research and activism by faculty and students actively engaged in scholarship on Hawaiian history.

Today, revived interest in food security has emerged out of concerns over climate change and renewed research on Native Hawaiian agricultural systems. These efforts have benefited all of us who recognize the importance of providing fresh food to everyone — and who enjoy farmers’ markets, farm-to-table restaurants, and community-supported agriculture.

read … Incubator

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