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Sunday, December 16, 2012
December 16, 2012 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:01 PM :: 4238 Views

Connecticut Shooting: Failure of Mental Health System

Hold the Tax Increases and Cut the Spending

How Christmas Came to Hawaii

700 Civil Unions Disproportionately on Maui, Kauai

HTH: As of Wednesday, the state Department of Health had registered a total of 719 civil unions….

While breakdowns of recent numbers were not available island by island, the Department of Health registered a total of 65 civil unions on the Big Island between January and August of this year. That represented 12 percent of the civil unions performed in the state. (Big isle is 13% of population)

Between January and August, Honolulu registered 270 civil unions, or 52 percent of those issued in the state. (Oahu is 69% of population) Kauai saw 67 (13 percent) (Kauai is 5% of population), and Maui registered 119 (23 percent) (Maui Co is 11% of population).

Concentration Compared:

  • Oahu = 0.75
  • Hawaii Co = 0.92
  • Maui Co = 2.09
  • Kauai Co = 2.60

“Marriage agents have been telling us that the electronic process has really helped to streamline the whole application process,” Okubo said Wednesday. “Now, people can go online, and fill out an application for a civil union, or marriage, see an agent, and then everything’s ready to go.”

The whole process takes only a day or two for the online applications to be verified and registered, she said, as opposed to weeks, and even months, as was the case when the process was done by filling out printed applications by hand and mailing them. (Progressives give themselves better service.)

read … Hawaii sees hundreds of civil unions

Obamacare: Will HMSA/Kaiser Duopoly Block Mandated Competition?

SA: Hawaii took a huge step forward less than two weeks ago when it awarded a four-year, $53 million contract to CGI Technologies and Solutions Inc., of Fairfax, Va., to build and maintain the state's health insurance exchange. The money is part of a $61.8 million federal grant that came in August to pay for the health initiative….

If the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services approves Hawaii's plan, as expected, it will go into effect on Oct. 1, 2013. By the end of next year, those who can afford health insurance but refuse to buy will be fined — $95 in 2014, $325 in 2015, and $695 in 2016.

One change that must occur in Hawaii, according to the federal plan, will be the addition of at least two national health insurance plans, Andrews said. Whether those plans will come to Hawaii in large numbers is doubtful, although Andrews said her office has received calls from health plans on the mainland that have no presence in Hawaii but sought information about participating here.

"Ostensibly, you're going to have more insurance organizations enter the (Hawaii) market…" Greene said….,

How many other insurers will enter Hawaii remains to be seen, predicated on whether they would operate effectively from afar — the mainland.

"If they don't, then the question becomes one, from my perspective, of service," Greene said. "They can get into contracts with providers but, if you are a patient, do you want to have to make a phone call back to the mainland if there's no office here in order to handle any issues that might arise with your insurance?"

In addition to the sizable CGI contract for Hawaii's health insurance exchange, Andrews' office has just hired local public relations/marketing firm Milici Valenti Ng Pack for $1.2 million …

…many small businesses in Hawaii have been unaware of tax credits for payments of employee health insurance, she said. Businesses with fewer than 25 employees could have been eligible for the 35 percent federal tax credit for their health insurance costs since 2010.

The effect of those tax credits could be extensive, as nearly 27,000 businesses in Hawaii have fewer than 20 employees, making them exempt from the mandate, but nearly 80 percent of small businesses provide health insurance for employees.

Related: How HMSA Used Health Care Advisory Council to Establish Medical Monopoly

read … Big Business Gets Paid, Small Business Misses Out

Death toll from Philippine typhoon breaches 1,000

SA: Benito Ramos, who heads the government's main disaster-response agency, said Sunday that previously unreported deaths have brought the toll wrought by Typhoon Bopha to 1,020. A massive search for 844 other people, including hundreds of fishermen and villagers who went missing in flood-swept mountainside towns, is to continue through the Christmas and New Year's holidays.

read … 1020

Local ties in Hawaii help storm victims in Samoa

KITV: Samoa has taken a beating from Cyclone Evan, which ripped through the island nation overnight.  At last count, four people were killed and at least 8 others were reported missing.

read … Samoa

Zero Progress: Handi-Van Strangled to Pay for Rail

Users of the Handi-Van say they continue to be frustrated by the lack of progress on complaints that date back several years in some cases, and they are hopeful that a new administration and new City Council will result in some changes to resolve their issues.

"We really want to work with the new Council and (Mayor-elect Kirk) Caldwell to fix the problems with the Handi-Van service," said Donald Saka­moto, chairman of Citizens for a Fair ADA Ride, an advocacy group that meets quarterly with officials from the city and TheBus.

Passengers say their complaints about delays, overcrowding and poor maintenance have only been compounded by cutbacks in bus service and a growing number of Handi-Van users….

Sakamoto said many of the vehicles are more than 10 years old and prone to breaking down, causing further delays because of the lack of vans.

"They keep falling apart," he said. "They're rickety. They're so uncomfortable because they don't have any shocks and the roads are so terrible right now."

Wait times for a van can be anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours, Belisario said, while calling for a reservation can also be a challenge, with lines often busy.

"They're so overwhelmed with people calling in for their ride," Sakamoto said.

The city has about 160 Handi-Van vehicles, Yoshi­oka said, and tries to keep 135 to 140 in use at any given time. The remainder are typically out with maintenance or similar issues.

read … Handicapped? Tough, we’ve got cronies

Public input crucial about 650-foot tower

SA: The Hawaii Community Development Authority's directors have chosen Forest City Enterprises Inc. to build a $293 million tower with 804 rental apartments in Kakaako, instead of a for-sale condominium model proposed by Australian-based company Lend Lease.

The monthly rent in the "affordable" range, as defined under federal guidelines, would range from $1,736 for a studio to $2,580 for a three-bedroom unit for those with incomes up to $69,470 for a single person and $99,240 for a family of four.

Under the proposal, Forest City would pay $14 million to the state for leasing the land for 65 years but is asking for exemption from the state's general excise tax — from construction spending — estimated at $10.6 million.

In the cost-versus-benefit analysis, the state also stands to incur pre-development and permit costs estimated up to $10.2 million; a $6.3 million cost to buy civic space in the tower; and essentially, affordable housing credits valued at $40.4 million that Forest City gains for producing affordable units beyond HCDA requirements.

(Now you know why the rents are so high.  All the cronies and the government have to get paid.)

read … Public input crucial about 650-foot tower

Riviere: Many questions deserve answers about Turtle Bay Resort expansion

SA: Recent news reports and editorials imply that major expansion of the Turtle Bay Resort is a done deal.

To this assumption, we say, "Not so fast!" ….

Now is the time for residents of Oahu to look carefully at the impacts of these proposed changes and to voice their opinion. Turtle Bay Resort expansion is not yet a done deal.

Concerned residents are encouraged to submit questions and comments on the Draft SEIS by Jan. 7. All comments will be addressed by the developer, so do not hesitate to share your thoughts.

Oi: When problems dismissed, resort’s review means little

read … Questions

City towing vendor inflated its fees

SA: Leeward Auto was charging a $65 hookup fee, rather than the $60 it proposed in its offer to the city, and $7.50 per towed mile, rather than the $7 it proposed, inflating each bill by at least a few dollars and sometimes significantly more, according to a review of roughly 100 of its accident-tow invoices obtained by the Star-Advertiser.

In some of the more egregious cases, customers overpaid around $50 to more than $100 based on the inflated hookup and mileage fees, the newspaper found.

By state law, towing companies are able to charge up to $65 for hookups involving non-consensual tows and $7.50 for each towed mile.

The discounts that Leeward Auto offered in its written bid were among the reasons the city selected the company — which had no prior experience overseeing police-initiated tows — over four competing vendors.

Despite that written bid, Tandal in a Friday morning interview with the Star-Advertiser initially defended the higher rates, saying the company was able to charge them based on city documents that were part of the signed contract package. He said the company decided to charge the higher rates to make the contract financially more viable.

But once the newspaper questioned the city about Tandal's comments, Leeward Auto executives were summoned to an impromptu meeting with city officials Friday afternoon. After that meeting, Tandal contacted the Star-Advertiser to say the company had misinterpreted the documents.

He said company executives immediately told Leeward Auto offices to switch to the lower rates and that roughly 2,000 customers affected by the overcharging would be notified beginning this week that they are entitled to refunds of any overpayments.

read … Never Undercharged 

 

Hawaii Co Council Considers Establishing Environmentalism as Official Religion

HTH: Wille said she considers the resolution, which she envisions as a “statement of policy,” as a draft and is open to changes. But with enough support, she said she would be open to making it an ordinance, which would have more weight.

The resolution states that all county-level decisions should be consistent with long-term sustainability goals; advancement of environmental well-being and socio-cultural values; favor caution and preservation “in any case in which information is uncertain;” and place the burden of proof that use of a resource is consistent with the sustainable health of an ecosystem on the party proposing to use it.

(IQ Test: What is the effect of the underlined portions?)

While the council may agree with the goals of the resolution, county Planning Director Bobby Jean Leithead Todd said putting them into practice would likely be easier said than done.

Leithead Todd said such “vague and ambiguous” language can be difficult for staff to interpret or apply to their own actions.

“It raises more questions than it answers,” she said.

read … Precautionary Principle

As Funding is Cut, Mauna Kea telescopes Scramble

WHT: The United Kingdom Infrared Telescope has been counting down the days since the cash-strapped U.K. Science and Technology Facilities Council announced this summer that it would be discontinuing funding for the telescope after September 2013.

UKIRT and another U.K.-managed telescope, the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, are both run by the Joint Astronomy Centre in Hilo….

“We’ve received a number of expressions of interest for UKIRT, and a number of them appear to be (strong possibilities), so we’re really looking at it in detail,” Davis said….“I’m hoping to make a final decision by the end of March,” he said.

If an operator can be found, the 33-year-old telescope will scan the night skies until a final decision to terminate funding is reached or until the expiration of the University of Hawaii’s lease of Mauna Kea in 2033.

Since 2005, UKIRT has been compiling the U.K. Infrared Deep Sky Survey, a panoramic study of the entire sky in the infrared spectrum. The survey is focused on distant redshifted galaxies at the margins of the visible universe. The telescope has operated since 2010 in “minimalist mode,” meaning that it is unattended at night and is operated remotely in Hilo.

JCMT, a submillimeter observatory with a 49-foot diameter reflector dish, faces the same fate as UKIRT. The funding for JCMT is scheduled to expire in 2014, and Davis said he would make a similar announcement offering its world-class facilities in the future.

Meanwhile: Telescope: The Shakedown begins, Thirty Meter Telescope Selects Mauna Kea -- Let the looting begin!

read … Second Life

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