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Monday, November 26, 2012
November 26, 2012 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:55 PM :: 4325 Views

California Voters Reject GMO Labeling Scheme

Collapsed Farrington Roof Had Just Been Inspected

KITV: This happened in the middle of the high schools 10 year renovation plan.

"The auditorium was a part of it, but it was more repair and maintenance kind of issues, it wasn't redesigning or refurbishing it," said Carganilla.

The roof was checked as a part of the new plan.

"When they went in there a couple weeks ago on the top of the roof they just did visual checks but they didn't do a structural assessment of it," said Carganilla.

He said visually the roof looked to be in good shape ….

"We have a bunch of 100 if not thousands of volunteers that would just give up their time to help out pitch in and do what they need to do," said Calvin Kochim pastor of New Hope Church.

Read … Deferred Maintenance

‘Green’ Energy Scammers ask Feds to Block Natural Gas Project

SA:  Several groups are challenging a push by Hawaii Gas to become the first company to bring liquified natural gas to Hawaii, contending that the company's plan has not undergone sufficient environ­mental review and will slow the state's quest for energy independence.

The Sierra Club and Blue Planet Foundation have filed objections with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission expressing their concerns with the plan. Life of the Land also cited its concerns in a filing with FERC, but did not take a position on the proposal.

Hawaii Gas, formerly known as The Gas Co., submitted an application with FERC in August to ship liquified natural gas, or LNG, from the West Coast to Hawaii in refrigerated tanks mounted inside 40-foot containers.

Best Comment: “These groups opposing are against a reduction in current rates from HECO. They know LNG will lower rates dramatically. They view high rates as the only way to get people to change habits and let artificial market forces work imposed by the highest kwh costs in the county.”

Hawaii Gas officials maintain that because of the limited scope of the first phase of the plan, an environmental review is not required. They say FERC's approval of Phase 1 would not preclude an environmental review for later phases of the project.

However, the Sierra Club and Blue Planet Foundation (representing solar and wind scammers) contend FERC is obligated to consider the implications of all three phases of the plan. Because the Phase 1 application invokes features that would be developed in later phases, such as an LNG import terminal, an environmental review should be required at this time.

"FERC must reject the company's request for authorization to begin the first phase of a long-term strategy to bring LNG to Hawaii without any environmental review or public input," according to the Sierra Club filing. The environmental group says Hawaii Gas "disclaims all responsibility for many impacts of a long-term LNG strategy."

read … Groups question plan to import gas

Natural Gas Vehicles Save 50% on Fuel

HNN: …public utilities and government officials are trying to boost demand for natural gas buses, taxis, shuttles, delivery trucks and heavy-duty work vehicles of all sorts, while simultaneously encouraging development of the fueling infrastructure that will be needed to keep them running.

The economics are compelling. Natural gas costs about $1.50 to $2 per gallon equivalent less than gasoline and diesel. That can add up to tens of thousands of dollars in savings for vehicles that guzzle the most fuel.

Fleet managers are taking notice. Companies as diverse as AT&T, Waste Management and UPS are converting all or parts of their fleets to natural gas, as are transit agencies, municipalities and state governments.

"Now that you can save a dollar or $2 a gallon, there's huge interest in the market, especially in those fleets that use a lot of fuel," said Richard Kolodziej, president of the trade group Natural Gas Vehicles for America.

Waste Management, the nation's largest trash hauler, has committed to replacing 80% of its fleet with trucks powered by natural gas. Rich Mogan, the company's district manager in southwestern Pennsylvania, said about half of his fleet of 100 trucks now run on the cheaper fuel. They are quieter and less expensive to maintain, he said, and "we are looking at a 50% reduction in our (fuel) cost."

Driller EQT Corp. opened its own natural gas filling station outside Pittsburgh in summer 2011, using it to refuel its trucks while also making it available to the public. It's now doing about 1,000 fill-ups a month….

Chesapeake Energy Corp., the nation's No. 2 producer, has been especially aggressive about targeting transportation. The Oklahoma City-based driller invested $150 million in Clean Energy, a company backed by Texas investor T. Boone Pickens that's building a nationwide network of liquefied natural gas refueling stations for long-haul truckers. Chesapeake also teamed up with General Electric on "CNG In A Box," a compressed natural gas fueling system for retailers; announced a partnership with GE and Whirlpool to develop a $500 appliance that would allow consumers to refuel their natural gas-powered cars at home; and has been working with 3M to design less expensive tanks.

"It's simply a matter of time before the U.S. meaningfully shifts from transportation systems built around consuming high-priced oil to consuming low-priced domestic natural gas," Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon wrote to investors this year. (No wonder Blue Planet and Sierra Club are panicking.)

read … About Real Alt Energy

Kauai 17,500 Smart Meters Installed

KGI: With more than 17,500 smart meters already installed, the Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative is more than halfway finished with the project to replace older mechanical meters at 33,000 homes and businesses.

The new meters send a signal straight to the KIUC offices via a system of routers installed around the island.

“We can literally look in on a system outage and get on it right away,” said Jim Kelley, KIUC communications manager. “It’s good from a service standpoint.”

In addition, the smart meters allow service to report real-time energy usage, and can be turned on and off from the KIUC office, so new customers will no longer have to wait at a residence or business for a service technician to show up and turn on the power — or worse, to cut off power for delinquent customers.

The units also help the utility accommodate more renewable energy in the grid.

“We don’t have to go out and read meters,” said Kelley, which in turn protects KIUC employees from a number of situations, including dealing with dogs or other potentially hazardous conditions. “The meter shows usage in real time.”

In addition, around 450 customers have signed up to receive an in-home display that tells them exactly how much energy is being used in real time. The unit also can be set to show the cost of energy being used at current rates.

The program is costing KIUC $11 million, of which half is being covered by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

KIUC has met with some opposition to the new smart meters. To date, 2,297 residents have asked for deferrals on installations. (That’s 7% of 33,000. Pretty close to the % of the population that smokes marijuana.)

read … Smart meters

Abercrombie to Propose All Mail-in Elections

CB: the governor asserted that “the Governor’s office has no authority in overseeing the Office of Elections.” That authority rests legally with the Elections Commission. The governor said he had forwarded my letter to the Office of Elections “with a request that it be addressed immediately.”

The governor added, however, “I do not plan to simply stand on the side and wait to see what their own review may bring.”

At a minimum, he said, “we must consider new technologies that can help bring our election process into the 21st century.” He said mail-in and electronic voting “has been effective in other parts of the country.”

“Moreover,” the governor wrote, “absentee ballots have seen a steady increase and use over the last several elections and there has been no evidence to question the accuracy and security of these ballots.”

Thus, he concluded, he would propose a change in the law to move the state to a mail-in and electronic voting system within two years.

Jimmy Carter: Vote By Mail: “Tool of choice for voter fraud”

Vote by Mail Fraud: Romy Cachola Barged In, Wanted Ballots

read …. Fraud forever

4 jump from state Capitol to City Hall

SA: The newest members are former Reps. Joey Mana­han and Kymberly Pine and former Sens. Carol Fuku­naga and Ron Menor.

Pine gave up a safe House seat in her Ewa Beach neighborhood to challenge Councilman Tom Berg, her former legislative aide known as much for his temper and confrontational style as for his work in the community.

Like many who go from the state to the city, Pine said she felt she accomplished most of what she could for her district at the state level, and wanted to focus more on the everyday needs of the community at the city level. She said she expects the four newcomers to be able to get working immediately for their communities.

"There's not a lot of big egos in this team," Pine said. "I think everyone really loves and deeply cares about their community, and that's their main priority. I think it's going to be one of the best Councils, I think, the city has ever had, to be honest with you."

Menor has been out of office since 2008, after losing in the Demo­cratic primary that year to Sen. Michelle Kidani. He had served 22 years in office, but was undone in 2008 by low turnout and a drunken-driving conviction earlier that year.

During his time in the Senate, he was known as the architect of the state's failed attempt to regulate gasoline prices by setting wholesale price caps based on oil price trends in mainland cities.

Manahan, Cachola and Voter Intimidation

PRP: Fukunaga Running to Continue Act 221 Tax Credit Scams

read … 4 Jump

Kauai Prosecutor Kollar Hires Kevin Takata

KGI: Kevin Takata will serve as the first deputy prosecuting attorney. He has served as a cold-case deputy prosecutor with the state Attorney General since 2010.

Takata brings 23 years of experience with the Honolulu Department of the Prosecuting Attorney, where he led the Trials Division. In addition to civil litigation, he is credited with more homicide convictions than any other state attorney.

Earlier this month, Takata lost an attempt to unseat incumbent O‘ahu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro.

“I reached out to Kevin because I think he will be a tremendous asset to the office,” Kollar said.

read … Takata

Audit: Many DoE employees working among children lack proper clearance

SA: A new Department of Education audit of the casual hire system that employed some 22,000 people at schools statewide last fiscal year found poor oversight and a lack of monitoring, and concluded schools were failing to follow even basic pre-employment protocols, including ensuring that background checks were conducted before an employee began work.

The report called the inadequacies in the system "unacceptable," saying they could lead to a host of problems, from fraud (through fictitious reporting) to safety concerns if someone with a criminal history is working with children to potential violations of federal employment laws.

Perhaps most alarming, auditors found 101 cases — of 271 hires reviewed — in which schools allowed employees to begin work before they were given clearance by the DOE's Office of Human Resources. Casual hires are cleared to begin work after a background check uncovers no problems. In some cases the clearance process also involves ensuring that the potential hire is qualified for the job.

Getting clearance, the audit said, can take from two days to two months….

"We're using an old hiring and payment system and have it scheduled for upgrade," he said. "In the meantime, now that we know there is a rather serious problem … we can develop manual work- arounds. We're updating our procedures."

Every casual hire is required to have a background check, except those who were salaried employees with the DOE prior to July 1, 1990. Background checks are also not necessarily conducted every year. Casual hires who have a background check on file and who have not had a break in service of more than six months do not need a new check conducted.

The audit suggested significant changes around the background check system to not only expedite the process, but also revisit the exemption for former employees who were with the DOE prior to 1990. It also suggested linking its employee listings with federal and state criminal databases to periodically check for criminal history updates.

Full Text: DOE Casual Hire Personnel Recruitment, Hiring and Payroll Processes Review

read … Schools skip background checks to vet casual hires

‘Connections’ First Contested Case before Ethics Commission in Years

CB: The inquiry, before the Hawaii Ethics Commission is significant in a number of ways. It will be the commission's first contested case hearing in 27 years, said Executive Director Les Kondo, who will essentially function as lead prosecutor.

And there are broad implications for the state's entire charter school community, government employees and the public at large.

Ted Hong, an experienced litigator who has held an array of high-level positions in Hawaii, is representing Eric Boyd, administrative assistant at Connections Public Charter School in Hilo.

The commission has charged Boyd with more than two dozen violations going back to 2006. The strongest conflict-of-interest counts involve Boyd — who also owns and runs a food service business with his wife — signing off on payments to himself for providing hundreds of school meals and selling thousands of dollars worth of electronics equipment to the school.

The case is finally coming to a head this week, more than two years after the initial charges were filed.

The alleged ethics violations alone are serious, and could result in $10,000 in fines.

But the decisions made by the commission — a five-member, governor-appointed volunteer body that will function as judge and jury — could set new precedents for Hawaii.

Hawaii Ethics Commission Boyd charge exhibits

Response to Ethics Commission charges

More information on the case is available on the commission's website by clicking here.

read … Connections

 

 

Hawaii Vets Have A Long Wait For A Decision On Their Disability Claims

CB: A backlog of claims at the Honolulu Veterans Benefits Administration is keeping some Hawaii veterans waiting up to 18 months for decisions on disability benefits.

The VBA in Honolulu says about 77 percent of its claims are backlogged, meaning they haven't been resolved after 125 days.

About 17 percent of Hawaii vets have a service-connected disability, slightly higher than the national average.

Still, the Honolulu VBA, which serves the state of Hawaii, is doing better than other regions in processing claims. An Office of the Inspector General report earlier this year said veterans claims were processed within 216 days, on average, about 14 days faster than the national average.

But that's not much comfort for Glen Felton of Kawaihae, who was informed by the VBA he would have to wait much longer.

The Honolulu regional office in August sent a form letter to the 88-year-old WWII veteran saying he would have to wait 15 to 18 months for a decision on whether it will give him approximately $1,000 a month to help pay for the in-home care his physician says he requires.

“It makes me angry, very angry,” Glen Felton told Civil Beat from his home on the Big Island. “I suffered most of my adult life for what happened those two years in the war.”

read … Hawaii Vets Have A Long Wait For A Decision On Their Disability Claims

Hawaii Has 743 Different Data Systems, Some 30 Years Old

SA: There is no backup plan, said Sanjeev "Sonny" Bhagowalia, the state's first chief information officer, who has discovered over the more than 16 months since his appointment just how old and vulnerable many of the state's data systems really are.

That's the bad, really scary news. The good news is that Hawaii is on the cusp of changing all that.

With a mix of state funds and a philanthropic grant, the new state Office of Information Management and Technology has completed an IT and Information Resource Management transformation plan that, if all goes well, could help Hawaii leapfrog from the technological basement into the infotech vanguard.

The challenge is daunting, and the plan lays out a seven-phase upgrade program that extends over a 12-year timetable. This means that the commitment to make this leap must persist beyond even a second term of its primary champion, Gov. Neil Abercrombie, if he gets one….

The status quo means continued inefficiency and faltering public services. Some state agencies continue to function with antiquated computer networks and mainframes that date back more than 30 years, Bhagowalia said. Staff turns to online marketplaces to find replacement parts.

Other agencies have gone completely old-school to do their business, and their file-cabinet, paper-based records can't be easily shared, slow down the processes and force duplication of efforts across the state bureaucracy….

what we have: a creaky conglomeration of data systems — 743 in all, most of them concerned with internal management instead of delivering public services.

And don't forget: There's virtually no digital backup.

read … Planning for a Post-Abercrombie Hawaii

Hawaiian Airlines: Something Isn’t Working

The Street: Perhaps the biggest negative for Hawaiian this year has been the buildup of competitors' Hawaii flying, particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area. Alaska (ALK) now operates 27 daily flights to four Hawaii airports from seven mainland cities. It competes with Hawaiian in Oakland, Calif., San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento, Seattle and Portland, Ore. Meanwhile, low-fare Allegiant (ALGT) serves Hawaii from smaller cities including California's Fresno, Stockton and Monterrey and Bellingham, Wash.

In an October report, following Hawaiian's third-quarter earnings release, Imperial Capital analyst Bob McAdoo wrote that Hawaiian faces "swelling capacity in a few Hawaiian markets, stifling revenue growth." McAdoo said industry capacity between Hawaii and North America is up 13% this year, including 25% growth in the Bay Area and 15% growth in Southern California. He also said that "competitors added capacity on two of Hawaiian's eight international routes." In both mainland and international markets, Hawaiian saw declines in revenue per available seat mile. In the third quarter, RASM fell 5.7% from the same period a year earlier….

Said Dunkerley: "I don't see anything wrong with the way we are situated in the Bay Area, but it will take time until capacity rationalizes or demand grows to fill it." (Translation: We are playing an expensive game of ‘chicken’ with our competitors.)

RASM has also been impacted by new Hawaiian service in three long-haul markets. When a carrier adds long flights, revenue is spread over more miles, so RASM declines (cost per mile also declines.) This year, Hawaiian has added service from Hawaii to Fukuoka and Sapporo in Japan and to New York. Capacity has also expanded within Hawaii, chiefly because of Hawaiian itself, which added a Maui hub. Hawaiian capacity is 25% intra-island, 47% mainland and 28% in Asia.

An October report on Hawaiian by Wolfe Trahan analyst Hunter Keay was titled "Something isn’t working." Keay said that typically "when airlines grow capacity and report good results, their P/E multiples tend to expand," and yet the opposite is happening for Hawaiian.

read … About the next HA Bankruptcy

$5M in rail funds will buy artwork for transit depots

SA: The Honolulu rail project will make about $5 million available to buy works of art to dress up the system's 21 train stations, and the city expects to invite artists from across the nation to compete for a chance to win commissions.

The proposed Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation budget for fiscal year 2014 includes $1.975 million in the latest dollop of funding for the local Art in Transit program, money that is expected to cover the cost of contracts with about 10 artists.

Artwork financed with that money would be displayed in the Dillingham Boulevard and Kakaako Station groups, and the city may offer the public an opportunity to participate in the artist selection.

The city has already set aside $694,000 for works of art in the Farrington Station group, which includes the West Loch, Leeward Community College and Wai­pahu Transit Center stations.

read … The Art of the Deal

263 Water Main Breaks so far in 2012

SA: Five water main breaks on Oahu last week snarled traffic and disrupted service, but officials say the final tally for main breaks in 2012 is still expected to come in way below totals seen in previous years.

As of Oct. 31 there were 263 water main breaks on Oahu this year, according to the Hono­lulu Board of Water Supply. Last year the number hit 300.

That's way down from a 10-year high of 500 in 2002 and an annual average for the decade of 368.

Ernest Lau, BWS manager and chief engineer, attributes the decline in main breaks to infrastructure improvements and lower water use.

"What we're seeing is probably a combination of things," he said.

Still, further decreasing the number of main breaks each year is a major goal of a five-year, $345 million capital improvement plan that BWS kicked off in mid-2011. The CIP plan includes replacing 40 miles of pipeline and repairing 216 wells and booster stations.

The efforts are aimed at building on the CIP gains made from 2005 to 2010. Over that period, crews repaired 35 miles of pipeline and fixed or replaced 64 wells and booster stations.

read … Leaks

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