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Monday, April 20, 2009
April 20, 2009 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 9:42 AM :: 6369 Views

Looming cuts renew debate on size of Hawaii education system

Proposed budget cuts of up to $94 million to the state's public school system have renewed a long-standing debate over the efficiency and size of the Department of Education.

Sen. Fred Hemmings, a longtime critic of Hawai'i's public education system, says impending cuts will be an opportunity to trim what he calls its bloated bureaucracy.

"I think you could cut hundreds of millions of dollars," Hemmings said.

He pointed to $40 million in cuts to DOE proposed by Lingle that education officials have said would not affect school-level programs or staff as one example of wasteful education spending.  "There's a lot of fat. The fat is often in positions that just aren't needed," he said.

Education officials reject claims of a massive DOE bureaucracy that needs to be cut back.

"The problem is, there's not that much left in the state office"  (so sad) after the governor's $40 million in cuts are accounted for, said DOE Budget Director Adele Chong.  "While we need people in the classroom, we also need people at the complex and state level (no we don't) to coordinate services and school-based programs across the state," Chong said. 

"It's not as if we have people sitting around twiddling their thumbs," she said.  (No, they are playing solitaire on their computers while racking up one of their 'top three' and dreaming of retirement.)

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Hawaii Pension tax plan worrisome

A Bloomberg financial services magazine heaped praise on Hawaii five years ago as No. 1 in the nation in tax friendliness for affluent retirees. The state House has balked at a measure that could change that status by taxing employer-provided pensions ever so slightly, but it does not seem worth the anxiety it could cause.

Hawaii is among 10 states that exempt income taxation of Social Security payments, as well as all federal, state and private pensions. A provision attached to a bill that would bring Hawaii in accord with changes in the federal tax code would exempt only the first $50,000 of employer-paid pension income but would tax such income exceeding that amount.

Kurt Kawafuchi, the state's director of taxation, figures it would generate more than $10 million in revenue to the state...Republican Rep. Cynthia Thielen describes the bill as the worst of the session, telling tax day protesters, "They want to tax your pensions — and that is unbelievably cruel."

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Vote for Council seat comes down this week

Voters will learn Thursday which one of 11 candidates will serve out the term of Barbara Marshall, who died Feb. 22 of colon cancer just months after overwhelmingly winning re-election to the seat representing parts of Kaneohe, Kailua and Waimanalo.  Acting City Clerk Bernice Mau expects her office to have a first printout available around 6:15 p.m. with as much as 98 percent of the vote counted.  About 54,000 ballots were mailed to voters in the district.   As of Friday, about 20,000 had been returned, Mau said.

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Praise for Obama splits along party lines

Hawaii Republican Party Executive Director Adam Deguire said Obama's polices will triple the nation's debt in 10 years, has raised taxes, and have shut out Republicans from important policy decisions.  "He achieved the opposite of what he promised us," Deguire said. "We can't afford this type of change."  He said "tea parties" staged across the country show that some people oppose Obama's policies and are rising up against them.

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Tourism: Cleaning needed

Please allow me to repeat what I wrote in my previous article: "The best client is the one you already have."

We have had millions of visitors that have been our strongest advertising message, going back to their cities and countries describing the wonders of Hawaii, the beauty of its shores and landscapes, and the friendliness and kindness of its people. And for a long time they did that. But now the trend is reversed. No one is singing the praises of Hawaii anymore and our "leaders" should ask themselves why.

The visitor's perception is that, for what Hawaii is offering now, we are way overpriced in every aspect.

We need to clean our beaches, improve public facilities and keep our streets, beaches and parks safe and attractive. There is no charm in dirty streets and roads, graffiti on walls and piles of rubbish dumped in our beauty spots.

Someone said to me once, "I am very disappointed. I came in search of Hawaii but I couldn't find it." We all need to reflect on that.

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Kapi'olani homeless will have to find new digs beginning today

Despite more than a month's notice of the impending closure, tents and about two dozen campers were still in the park on Friday. Barbecues, tents, belongings covered in tarps, chairs and bicycles were clustered in little camp areas.

The number of homeless in the park last week was significantly lower than over the summer, when camping peaked at an estimated 150 people per night. Having that many homeless at the doorstep to the state's No. 1 tourist destination prompted complaints from residents and resulted in negative national publicity.

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Subaru donates to 'Imiloa

The gift will be used to help 'Imiloa achieve its goal of having all of Hawaii's 30,000 K-12 children participate in its programs over a two-year period," said Hayashi. "Student participation in 'Imiloa's educational experiences fosters connections to their Hawaiian heritage as well as to the stars in the night sky."  (And this is the key to winning the $1.2 B TMT)

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40,000 to begin recycling (propaganda of the deed)

Recycling pickup will begin the week of May 4 for residents in Waimanalo, Kane'ohe, Wahiawa, Launani Valley, Waipio Acres, Waipio Gentry, Halawa, Pearl City and 'Aiea.  Homes that don't have the three carts should be getting them soon along with instructions, which will be placed inside the bin. 

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Charter School Battles State Over Land

Voyager envisions raising $10 million to $14 million to build a two-story complex for a permanent home.  Right now the school's classrooms are spread out in three different buildings and the school just wants to consolidate.

Its current location on Auahi Street is just a half a block away from the site that it's eyeing. But for the last three decades, that site on Pokukaina Street has contained a building that has been used as a book processing center. Every book in the state's 51 libraries has been processed there.  (apparently they never heard of 'just-in-time' delivery)

The school's direct negotiations with the Department of Land and Natural Resources, which owns the land, came as a surprise to school board members.  School board chair Garrett Toguchi said this week members took a position to oppose Voyager's plan. (No surprise there.  So give them one of the DoE schools being closed.  Oh that's right, that would entail leadership--something the BoE possesses only when protecting drug addicted teachers from testing.) 

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