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Wednesday, April 15, 2009
April 15, 2009 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 8:39 AM :: 8905 Views

Hawaii Legislature passes $4 Billion in new taxes and fees ($13,000 per family of four)

State House and Senate members tentatively passed a $4 billion tax increase on the people of Hawaii today on the eve of the largest anti-tax protest in the nation’s history.

“This is just wrong,” said Joe Pandolfe, organizer of the Honolulu Tax Day Tea Party tomorrow, from 4-7 p.m. at the State Capitol. “Legislators are clearly not living in the world that we are and do not understand how much the people of Hawaii are suffering. We must put a stop to this.”

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Card check bill goes forward at Capitol

The bills allow workers to form a union when a majority sign pro-union cards. The cards are public, and that is what has caused many businesses to oppose the bill.

They want decisions to unionize to be made via a secret ballot vote, so workers don't feel coerced into supporting the union by their peers.

The state legislation, known widely as the card check bill, is similar to bills being debated in the U.S. Congress that have touched off a heated debate between unions and businesses.

"This bill is very anti-business as it eliminates the secret ballot," said state Rep. Barbara Marumoto, R-19th (Wai'alae Iki, Kalani Valley, Kahala), who believes the secret ballot helps ensure the integrity of elections. "It strips the rights of employers. I am very apprehensive about this bill."

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Maui Proposal includes some fee increases

Maui County residents would have to pay more for trash collection, sewer and water services, and some other programs, under the 2010 budget being considered by the Maui County Council.

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EPA wants Honolulu to change rail route to save tiny community ('Banana Patch')

The agency also has asked the city to justify why alternatives to an elevated rail line, such as light rail at street level and bus rapid transit, weren't evaluated in the project's environmental impact study. Those and other concerns were lodged with the city and the Federal Transit Administration as part of an ongoing federal environmental review.

Among the concerns the city will need to address are social justice issues surrounding plans to relocate a small community between Kamehameha and Farrington highways. The so-called "Banana Patch" is a corner of old Hawai'i where residents still live without county water, street lights or sidewalks. It is a predominantly Asian neighborhood with 55 residents, 10 homes and a church, according to the city's environmental impact study.

The area is to be converted into a park-and-ride lot that has been identified as a key way to funnel North Shore and Central O'ahu commuters onto the rail system. The EPA has asked the city to identify and select an alternative alignment that would eliminate the need to relocate the community.

Some Banana Patch property owners, such as Sam Alipio, have said they don't want to be forced out. "No, we don't want to move," Alipio said.

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Hawaii Retail Vacancy Highest Since 2007

Such closures helped push the retail vacancy rate to 2.8 percent in Hawaii. That is a 0.5-percent jump since last year and the highest since 2007.

It is a lower vacancy rate than experts at the largest commercial real estate company in Hawaii expected.

"It's very tight market. That's not a large vacancy by any measure, and it's very, very tight compared to our mainland markets," CB Richard Ellis Managing Director Joe Haas said.

The opening of several large retailers, like Target in Kapolei and Salt Lake, offset the new vacancies.

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Lawmakers Debate Limiting Funds To Abstinence-Only Programs

State lawmakers got into a heated debate Tuesday on a bill to deny state funding to any organization that limits its sex-education message to abstinence only.

The bill requires state-funded sex-education programs to provide information on abstinence as well as contraception and how to protect against sexually transmitted diseases.

"We should be able to say what kind of programs our children are a part of and some of the sex education programs get very sexually explicit on how you have sex and, you know, things I think are inappropriate depending on what age you are teaching," House Minority Leader Rep. Lynn Finnegan said.

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Head of Hawaii homeless shelter put on leave amid complaints

As reported in The Advertiser last month, Soares is accused of requiring residents to attend mandatory religion classes or face eviction, threatening and intimidating staff and clients, and taking in people who have not been verified as homeless....

Soares did not return telephone calls yesterday. In the past, he has defended his operation and denied the allegations against him. He has said the complaints are unfair and that he has been singled out because of tough decisions he has made in helping frequently troubled homeless people return to the social mainstream.

That report concluded that of 44 areas reviewed, only eight were in compliance. The facility or executive director were deemed "not passing" in 32 areas, "needs improvement" in three, and "not applicable" in one.  Among the findings were examples of Soares waiving the homeless verification process, which the report said violates the contract. Other findings said the facility's termination process "does not clearly delineate what acts will result in termination ..." (and) that the outcome of any appeals "reside with the HPHA, not the ... shelter executive director."

The 72-unit transitional and low-income affordable rental project began as a faith-based initiative that fills 4 acres once occupied by an Uluwehi apartment complex that was demolished in 2005. Hawai'i taxpayers contributed more than $13 million to the facility.

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Kauai Council debates solid waste strategy

With the Kekaha landfill approaching capacity and multi-million dollar expansion plans on the horizon, the county’s long-running failure to address its solid waste issues set up a debate Tuesday at Council Chambers, pitting former Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura against the Carvalho administration in a rehashing of one of the more contentious issues of last year’s mayoral campaign.

Yukimura complained in testimony that a line item in a previous budget had specified the council’s interest in a materials recovery facility, not waste-to-energy. She said solid waste professionals draw a significant distinction between waste reduction efforts like recycling and other diversionary techniques and conversion efforts like waste-to-energy.

(Enviros. fight for physical recycling over waste-to-energy because physical recycling requires action on the part of every individual on the island whereas waste-to-energy requires no action on the part of individuals.  W-T-E is a more efficient recycling system but it eliminates the 'propaganda of the deed.')

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Election financing delay sought

It may be too little, too late, but Hawaii County Council members hope a resolution they approved Monday will be enough to persuade the state Legislature to rip up its campaign finance bill and insert a delay in public financing of Big Island elections.
The council voted 6-3 to approve the resolution, with Hamakua Councilman Dominic Yagong, South Kona Councilwoman Brenda Ford and Kohala Councilman Pete Hoffmann voting no.
Proponents said the publicly funded pilot project for council elections is flawed and needs to be delayed so it can be fixed. The $300,000 cap on the project, and the fact that the money is fist-come, first-served, makes it fundamentally unfair and possibly unconstitutional, they said.

A group of Hilo Community College students and one of their professors were disgruntled as they left the meeting.
The fact that so many could get up and testify in opposition and the council approved it anyway just proves the whole point of why reform is needed, said sociology professor (and 9-11 Troother) Noelie Rodriguez.  "It's a slap in the face to the students and to democracy," Rodriguez said.  (And to efforts to convince folks that that nice boy Osama is innocent)

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