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Sunday, April 12, 2009
April 12, 2009 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 8:21 AM :: 9500 Views

PUC considers Sierra Club Plan to quadruple cost of electricity

Hawaii is poised to become the first state in the nation to adopt a FIT similar to Germany's. The policy is currently under consideration by the Public Utilities Commission....So what about cost? Won't ratepayers be pinched in this proposal to buy clean power at a premium? Germany established more aggressive FITs in 2000, with some of the tariffs paying clean energy providers four times or more than the going rate of electricity.

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OHA Water grab: Plan could strangle last sugar plantation

WAILUKU - The litigants in the five-year-old legal battle over how much water should be taken from Central Maui's four largest streams said they may have taken a significant step last week toward dramatic victory.

A top state official Thursday proposed putting about half of the up to 70 million gallons of water diverted each day from streams to mostly sugar plantations and the county water system back into its natural environment.

Earthjustice attorney Isaac Moriwake announced Saturday that state Commission on Water Resource Management Hearings Officer and Commissioner Dr. Lawrence Miike issued a 210-page "proposed decision" that would restore 34.5 million gallons a day to Na Wai Eha, or "The Four Waters" from the century-old plantation irrigation system.

The decision - if it holds up to a vote among the rest of the seven-person commission - would completely alter the Waihee River and Waiehu, Iao and Waikapu streams, which make up Na Wai Eha. Earthjustice filed the petition to the commission on behalf of the community groups Hui o Na Wai Eha and Maui Tomorrow, supported by Maui County and the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs in order to bolster native stream life and support water use by people who live along the streams, most notably taro farmers.

However, if the decision stands, it could also translate into further agricultural and financial troubles for the state's last sugar producer, Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co.

(Just wait until developers have to buy portions of the diverted water from OHA to build new developments....)

TOTALLY RELATED: Ue ka lani, ola ka OHA?  Thirsty? Get used to it. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) now claims ownership of most of Hawaii’s fresh water....

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Borreca: Legislature meets Lingle in a battle of the budgets

Welcome to "We Hate Taxes Week" and the accompanying legislative plan to raise nearly every state tax lawmakers can find.

Conservatives and tax protesters hope to use the April 15 federal tax deadline to focus attention on Hawaii's role in hosting the last event in a national campaign of "tea parties."

The idea, according to the event planners, is that taxpayers are paying too much already and everyone should wave tea bags and look vexed.

As much fun as it is to dislike taxes, raising taxes is also the top option at the Legislature, now fostering the mother of all tax sessions.

Gov. Linda Lingle got into the game this week, staking out areas she feels are off limits for tax increases. Lingle is aiming her veto pen at bills that raise the general excise tax, state income tax or the hotel room tax.

Excise tax increases are regressive, income tax hikes hurt small-business owners and the hotel industry needs help, not more taxes, Lingle reasons.

The Democratic leaders in the Legislature see the opposite picture — a budget that is bleeding red ink and no way out of tax increases.

Already nonprofit programs across Hawaii feel the effect of the state budget cuts. As state funding grew to nurture programs from social services to cultural programs, programs expanded and Hawaii became a more humane, civilized and caring place.

Now all those programs are shrinking and Hawaii's social fabric will be tested. When welfare payments run out before the end of the month, when doctors are not available for the sick (Gee should've passed TORT REFORM and ABOLISHED THE CON, eh?) ....

The result is a budget stalemate much like the one today, except it could drag out all summer.

And then next year, the tax protest will not be on April 15, but Nov. 2, the date of the next general election.

(So everybody at the Tea Parties better register to vote!)

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Price of Obama: Hawaii should be a gathering place, even in recession

In the first three months of this year, 132 groups canceled meetings and incentive trips, costing the islands' travel industry nearly $100 million in revenue....  The Obama administration and other government officials shouldn't allow lead misplaced public outrage to sink the travel industry into an even deeper economic quagmire.

(Isn't that precious--and what portion of blame goes to the Hawaii Democrats who helped foist Obama on the nation in the first place?)

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Volunteers overcome Government (again): Hana dialysis center dedicated 

Husband Andrew would drive her to Wailuku for dialysis three days a week starting at 1:30 or 2 a.m. from Hana, to allow time to clear the road of mudslides or fallen trees.

"I had to carry a chain saw to cut our way through all that," he said.  Now, she said, she goes to the Hale Pomaika'i three days a week.  "Oh I love it. Now I'm not tired."

The couple's daughter, Lehua Cosma, is widely hailed as a driving force behind the dialysis facility.

Kihei contractors Bill Burgemeister and Kirk Donaghy worked on renovating the home; Hana woodshop students painted the exterior, installed and polished flooring, and "did everything and anything we asked them to do," Schaefer said.  "The community makes the difference in what is happening and what is not happening," Lingle said at Saturday's ceremony.

RELATED: Hana home dialysis sets a Feb. 20 start  -- In 1927, the property in Wakiu was set aside to the county for a county physician's residence. A single family residence and a cottage on the site were built in 1938. When the state initially took responsibility for the Hana Health Center, the county was allowed to use the home as a temporary residence for police officers assigned to the Hana District.

But the state turned over management of the medical center in 1988 to the Hana Community Health Center, now operating as Hana Health, which again began to use the house for its physicians. But the Hana Health board would not agree to provide dialysis services in Hana, saying it would be too costly - leading to the founding of Hui Laulima O Hana and its campaign to bring dialysis to the remote East Maui community

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MMMC gets $10 million loan from state

The hospital's chief executive officer, Wesley Lo, requested a $20 million loan a few months ago with anticipation of shortfalls in operational expenses and no new revenue expected to make up for losses.

The island's only acute-care hospital needs government help to pay down vendor bills that have been delinquent for more than three months. The operating subsidy would also be used to cover a cash-flow deficit that averages $2.5 million a month, while the money for late bills would reduce the accounts payable delay to about 45 days.

Lo emphasized that Maui Memorial is still seeking a private-public partnership that would make it less dependent on state funding while allowing the medical center to improve its delivery of health care services.

In the short term, Tsutsui said Maui Memorial would not last through this fiscal year ending June 30 without the state loan.

For the long term, the hospital will need more autonomy and a partner that can boost it financially, Tsutsui said.

A House version of the enabling partnership bill calls for transferring the state's community hospitals from the Hawaii Health Systems Corp. to the state Department of Health, which was administratively in charge of hospitals up until 1996.

The changes to the legislation stem from arguments by other state lawmakers that the Hawaii Health Systems Corp.'s oversight of community hospitals is not working. HHSC has asked for a $60 million emergency appropriation to help all of its 13 hospitals.

HHSC Chief Executive Officer Tom Driskill has said he would support Maui Memorial's efforts to seek a public-private partnership.

Last year's legislative session provided Maui Memorial with more autonomy from the state health oversight agency by allowing Maui County public hospitals to form a regional board that would have direct oversight in finances.

In 2008, investment banker JP Morgan arranged for $130 million in interim and long-term financing for Maui Memorial. The hospital received $11 million and then gave half of it to cash-strapped community hospitals.

Lo said he agreed to share the money from a bond sale before the financial markets collapsed last year.

"I was just trying to help the system," he said.

Maui Memorial was expecting at least $19 million more in private financing, but that has not come through, he said.

"Credit markets . . . just disappeared," Lo said.

Lo said the hospital is continuing to work with JP Morgan, but it will be months, maybe even a year, before it can acquire private financing.

(After blocking Malulani, MMMC is now going to privatize itself....)

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MMMC expands heart options:  (Socialism: Capital consumption to fund operating expense)

Maui Memorial was first granted a state permit in October 2006 to expand and upgrade its vascular treatment center on its Wailuku hospital grounds. The overall plan was to build a multimillion-dollar Heart, Brain and Vascular Tower with state-of-the-art technology. But that has been temporarily scaled back because of the U.S. economic downturn and the hospital's inability to acquire more money through its investment banker, JP Morgan.

The investment firm provided the hospital $11 million last year as part of a $130 million interim and long-term financing package. Approximately half of the money was used by Maui Memorial to cover operational expenses, and the other half was given to its managing agency, Hawaii Health Systems Corp., to help other hospitals in the state.

MMMC CEO Wesley Lo said he continues to work with JP Morgan, which has advised him to wait for at least a year so that the financial climate can improve.

"It's just really hard to get" money, he said, adding that it's difficult even having the best credit rating.

While the planned Heart, Brain and Vascular Tower cannot be built anytime soon, Maui Memorial is going forward with plans to offer new cardiovascular services, including open-heart surgery.

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Pork Dreams: Land prices for Hawaii rail route jump $100 million since 2006

Honolulu real estate prices are expected to fall over the next three years, but the estimated cost of acquiring land to build Honolulu's elevated commuter train is going up.  In late 2006, the city estimated it would need $70 million to purchase land for the rail project. Now the estimate is between $160 million to $170 million, according to budget documents recently filed with the City Council.

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Campaign signs: Lawmakers Outdoor Circle can't contain themselves

A campaign sign reform bill, strongly supported by The Outdoor Circle, would have placed reasonable restrictions on the size and number of signs posted on residential property and would have greatly reduced the blight these signs often create in our neighborhoods.

From the beginning of the session many, perhaps most, legislators viewed the bill as a threat to the status quo.  (WRONG.  Lawn sign bans and restrictions inherently favor any incumbent.)

...With support from several key members the legislation continued to advance and after the legislation unanimously passed the House-Senate conference committee, sending it to a final vote on both floors, we were hopeful. Perhaps the message had gotten across after all.  But on the day the floor votes were scheduled, despite publicly expressing only minor objections for two years, House members voted to send the legislation back to committee, thus killing the measure.  (So sad.)

(Its called free speech.  Look it up.  Its in the constitution.  Democracy is beautiful.  The Outdoor Circle isn't. This writer still remembers all the meetings the Outdoor Circle has hosted for Hokulia shakedown artists and other assorted lowlifes.) 

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Cataluna: Cayetano memoir a candid tell-all

...he did get the cold shoulder from one prominent figure at the Waialae Country Club and the duck-and-evade move from a current legislator at a cocktail party. "As I was writing, I was thinking, 'Here's another guy who's not going to talk to me,' " he said.

...he tells the story about a leading House Democrat busting into another legislator's office, clearing the man's desk with his arm, grabbing him by the neck and lifting him off the ground in a choke hold. It's like a scene from a cable cop drama. And Cayetano names names.

The initial printing was a conservative 3,500 copies, which sold out in six weeks. Waiting lists are growing at local book stores and on Amazon for the second printing, which will come out the third week of April. A recent book signing at the Kahala Barnes and Nobles had a line of several hundred people snaked out the door. The book has been on the Hawai'i best-sellers list for five weeks in a row.

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