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Thursday, January 31, 2013
January 31, 2013 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:56 PM :: 6459 Views

Tax Cut or Minimum Wage Hike? Hawaii 4th-Highest Taxes for Low Income Residents

Hawaii: Attempt to Repeal Protections for NRA Instructors Fails

Would a Jones Act exemption lower the cost of electricity in Hawaii?

FrackNation TV Debut: Debunks Anti-Natural Gas Hysteria

MUST-WATCH VIDEO: Tough questions follow Al Gore book tour (“A bit of hypocrisy.”)

HSTA Statement January 30, 2013:  "We received a comprehensive proposal from the state. At this time, the team is giving it a thorough review. We look forward to continuing our work with the employer's negotiating team."

DoTax Employees Secretly Arrested, Fired

QUESTION: Whatever happened with the state investigation of internal security breaches in the state

Department of Taxation’s computer database discovered in 2011, and which resulted in disciplinary action against some employees?

ANSWER: A number of tax department employees who were investigated in connection with the security breaches have been “arrested and relieved of their duties,” said state Rep. John Mizuno, vice chairman of the House Legislative Management Committee, which is monitoring the case.

Mizuno said he spoke with members of the governor’s information technology staff, but said he didn’t have additional details of the investigation, such as the number of employees arrested.

The department announced on Dec. 15, 2011, that an audit uncovered breaches of its computer database going back at least to 2008. The department said it referred the matter to the state attorney general and had placed employees on unpaid administrative leave.

Mallory Fujitani, department spokeswoman, said this month that 21 department employees were investigated, up from the 14 originally reported.

Fujitani said she could not say if the employees are back at work, still on leave or no longer with the department.

read … Secret Arrests

Another PLDC: Bill on park and harbor development passes initial hurdle

SA: The proposal, House Bill 942, is among several introduced in the Legislature this year to address concerns surrounding the Public Land Development Corp., established last year as the development arm of the Department of Land and Natural Resources. The PLDC has yet to begin work after being hamstrung by vehement public protests over the summer during the administrative rulemaking process.

Opponents, including environmental, labor, Native Hawaiian and other interests, have criticized the exemptions from land use, planning and zoning laws used as incentives to attract private developers for projects on state land.

Opponents of the new harbors and parks measure criticize it as the PLDC by another name.

read … They’re laughing at you

Hawaii School Voucher Program Passes Senate 24-1

AP: "To me, we're not creating anything new," Slom told the Associated Press. "We're transferring funding that's individual parents' responsibility to taxpayers."

Slom said the bill is the result of lobbying efforts from special interests including educational providers who will benefit financially from the program.

Funding isn't the only issue. The bill bumps up against the Hawaii State Constitution, which prohibits public funding of private educational institutions.

The governor wants a state constitutional amendment to allow the state to partner with private educational providers to run the program.

Read … Voucher Program

Bills would clip powers of UH board, president

SA: Senate President Donna Mercado Kim introduced a package of bills Wednesday that would limit some of the UH president's powers in procurement, require Board of Regents members be trained about their own policies and on state laws and adjust how regents are selected.

Kim said the six bills confront the concerns and recommendations of a Senate panel convened last year to investigate a botched Stevie Wonder concert, which was to be a benefit for the cash-strapped athletic department but ended up costing the school more than $200,000 in an alleged scam.

KITV: For reference purposes, the bills are as follows

read … Legislative Interference

E-W Center Could Lose 51% of Budget

CB: the East-West Center, knowing that Inouye would one day no longer be around, began looking for greater financial support from sources other than Congress — regional governments, foundations, individuals, corporations, private agencies — some time ago.

The effort has paid off. The center's non-appropriated funding has increased from $3.8 million in 1985 to $15.8 million in 2012 — that is, from 17 percent of total center funding to 49 percent.

The center's current budget is $32.5 million, of which $16.7 million comes from congressional appropriations and $15.8 million from other sources. Those sources include $4.5 million in federal grants and contracts and $11.3 million from private groups, foundations and foreign governments.

read … Life Without Inouye

Abercrombie's budget does not require more tourism revenue, he says,but he wants discussion (In order to make extension more palatable)

SA: Many in the tourism industry had fought the increase in the hotel room tax during the recession, just as they had opposed previous increases, yet the market was able to absorb the higher rate.

But tourism industry leaders warn that another increase would be too much of a burden. Destinations with high hotel room taxes, such as New York, attract many business travelers who expense their hotel bills, they say, adding that Hawaii is primarily a leisure destination, so visitors feel the tax in their pocketbooks for what is already an expensive vacation.

"We're going to get to the point of what I like to think of as diminishing returns, where you get to that price point, and that visitor on the mainland or anywhere else is going to look at Hawaii and say, ‘Here's my threshold,'" said George Szigeti, president and chief executive officer of the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association. "It's something we need to be very, very careful of. And we're getting to that point and I just think you can't recklessly and all of sudden, because things are good right now, tack on additional taxes on the visitor."

Keith Vieira, senior vice president and director of operations for Hawaii and French Polynesia at Starwood Hotels and Resorts, said that, ideally, the 9.25 percent hotel room tax rate would expire as scheduled in 2015. But he said he understands the financial pressures facing the state and could support keeping the rate in place, especially if a greater share of the revenue was given to the Hawaii Tourism Authority for tourism promotion.

But Vieira, like Szigeti and others in the industry, opposes another tax increase.

"It may not be that concerning today, but in a year or two, when cycles shift and change, you don't want to be in that situation," he said.

Rep. Tom Brower (D, Waikiki-Ala Moana-Kakaako) chairman of the House Tourism Committee, called Abercrombie's hotel-room tax increase — House Bill 971/Senate Bill 1202 — a "tough call."

"But legislators should give it a reasonable hearing and weigh the options, because everything needs to be on the table," he said.

Senate Majority Leader Brickwood Galuteria (D, Kakaako-McCully-Waikiki), chairman of the Senate Tourism and Hawaiian Affairs Committee, predicted the tourism industry will have a strong reaction if it appears a tax hike is a possibility.

"They are going to come out screaming," he said.

read … Feeding the State

Kaiser Nurse layoffs could hurt care

SA: The proposed reduction in workforce among the registered nurses employed at Kaiser Permanente Hawaii clinics is a distressing signal of disruptions to come in the reform of the nation's health care delivery system. (Simple Solution: Abolish the Hawaii Health Exchange.)

What's being invoked — not only in Hawaii but in other cities where similar cutbacks are being implemented — is the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration's health care reform law that will take full effect next year.

And health care experts also believe that the need for the primary-care services that RNs provide — the assessment of patient symptoms that can lead to efficient referrals to doctors and treatment — also will continue to increase. Lacking more information, critics of major staff reductions, such as in this Kaiser proposal, can reasonably conclude that dispatching experienced nurses is a shortsighted survival strategy.

Totally Related: HHSC Exec: Hospitals "Being Pushed to Brink of Collapse"

read … Result of Hawaii Health Exchange

State to Pay $550K Settlement over Sovereignty Activist Torturing Children

SA: The state has agreed to pay $550,000 to settle two lawsuits in a notorious case in which five children suffered years of abuse in what authorities called a "house of torture."

The settlement amount is included in a bill before the Legislature that would appropriate nearly $1.5 million to resolve about a dozen lawsuits against various state agencies.

In two civil complaints filed in 2009 and 2010, the state was accused of negligence for failing to sufficiently investigate whether Gabriel and Barbara Kalama of Waianae would be suitable guardians for the children, all siblings.

With the support of the state Department of Human Services, the court approved the Kalamas as guardians in 2000.

The plaintiffs also said the state should have known that Allen and Rita Makekau, both of whom had criminal records, were part of the Kalamas' nuclear family and would be assisting in the care of the children.  (Not mentioned in article: Makekau was a leader of a sovereignty group which took over Iolani palace: LINK

The state in 1999 had removed the five minors from the home of the Makekaus, who were their foster parents at the time, because officials became aware of their criminal records, according to court documents.

The Kalamas were sentenced to a year behind bars and five years' probation in 2008 for multiple counts of abuse, child endangerment and assault, while Rita Makekau received a five-year prison term after pleading no contest to eight counts of assault. Allen Makekau was never charged in the criminal proceedings.

The children endured physical, sexual and psychological abuse on numerous occasions until they were removed from the Kalamas' home in 2005, according to the lawsuits and other court documents. During that period, they were never taken to a doctor or dentist, prosecutors said.

The abuse inflicted on the children included being struck in the mouth with a hammer, chipping teeth; struck on the head with a wooden spoon and knife, causing cuts and scarring; and sometimes being fed dog food laced with hot sauce, according to prosecutors.

One boy was forced to sleep under the house with dogs, the court files say.

The $550,000 settlement would not be a record for the state in a child abuse case, according to attorneys familiar with such matters. The state has paid more than $1 million in at least one case over roughly the past decade, they said.

Attorney Dennis Potts, who represented three of the five children under the Kalamas' care, said Wednesday that the case was significant and difficult because the plaintiffs were attempting to prove that the state was negligent before the children even suffered the abuse.

Just Ignore This: Sovereignty activist 'tortures' children

read … A Great Hawaiian Sovereignty Leader Who Occasionally Tortures Their Children

Gay Domestic Violence: Ex-49er Arrested After Fight over Soy Sauce and Underwear

A Story You Can’t Find in the News: Former San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders offensive tackle Kwame Harris will appear in San Mateo County Superior Court today on charges he assaulted his former boyfriend at a Menlo Park restaurant during an argument over soy sauce and underwear….

Harris and his alleged victim had been in a relationship but were no longer involved when they met at Su Hong restaurant in Menlo Park, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Guidotti….

Harris was to drive Geier to San Francisco International Airport but instead became upset when he poured soy sauce on a plate of rice, according to the suit filed in San Mateo County Superior Court.

The ‘men’ argued for approximately seven minutes and Harris said he would no longer take Geier to the airport, the suit states.

As the men left to remove Geier’s belongings from Harris’ car so that he could instead take a cab, Harris tried pulling the other man’s pants down and accused him of stealing his underwear, according to the suit.

Geier unsuccessfully tried pushing Harris away but the bigger man shook him violently and punched him in the arms, the suit states.

Police reports list Harris as 6 feet 7 inches and 240 pounds while Geier is 6 feet 1 inch and 220, Guidotti said.

Geier allegedly hit Harris three times in the face but Harris “seemed only to grow more agitated” and punched him in the face several times until he fell, the suit states.

Harris allegedly threw Geier’s property from the car and left while Geier hailed a cab and was taken to an emergency room in San Jose.

Geier had surgery to repair broken orbital bones and required a metal plate to repair the damage.

Harris was arrested at his home.

What the Media is Focusing On: Niners CB says openly gay players would not be welcomed on the team

read … Former 49er charged with attacking ex-boyfriend

NOAA Covers for Anti-Superferry Whale Watch Tour Operators After they Viciously Attack Whales

AP: Two encounters happened off Maui. In the first incident, a boat struck a calf about half a mile off the Lahaina coast Tuesday evening. Crewmembers reported seeing blood in the water and alerted NOAA officials.

The second Maui incident occurred at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday about a mile off Maalaea Harbor . A boat struck a humpack whale, leaving it with three visible slashes, NOAA says. This crew also reported the incident. NOAA has not revealed if they were private boats or tour boats.  (As if there was any doubt.)

read … About the Hypocrites Who Blocked the Superferry

Hypocrites: Feminist HQ, UH Manoa, Underpays Female Researcher

HNN: Miriam Riner says she felt betrayed when she found out she was earning $5,000 a year less than a less experienced, male counterpart was receiving to do the same job.

Riner, a researcher at the University of Hawaii, said her efforts to get a raise were rebuffed for more than a year -- even though her bosses acknowledged that she's underpaid.

"One of the most frustrating parts this is that no one is arguing that there's a pay inequity between this new male hire and a more experienced female," she said.

read … About the ‘Conscious, Enlightened, and Progressive’ Hypocrites

Pothead Legalization Bill HB699 to Be Heard Friday Feb 1

A bill that would legalize marijuana in the state of Hawaii will be heard by members of the House Judiciary Committee this Friday, February 1, 2013.

HB 699 would authorize the use of marijuana by adults over the age of 21. Driving under the influence of cannabis would remain illegal. Sales to minors under age 21 will remain illegal.  The bill would regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol by amending Chapter 329 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes.

The bill would also license facilities for the cultivation of cannabis plants, quality control, and a retail distribution system.  A state excise tax would apply to all marijuana establishments in Hawaii.

The bill does not effect Hawaii’s current medical marijuana laws.

The deadline to submit testimony for HB 699 is Thursday at 5pm.

read … Fake Legalization

Bill would allow higher rates when water low

MN: The Maui County Council Water Resources Committee advanced a bill that authorizes the mayor and the director of the Department of Water Supply to declare "water shortages" and to impose higher rates for Maui County residents.

The rate structure to kick in during water shortages - not only during droughts - will be established in a separate ordinance during the council's next budget cycle, according to Councilman Mike White's office. White is the chairman of the council's Budget and Finance Committee.

read … Latest Scheme to Reach into your pocket

Former Kauai Deputy prosecutor accuses county attorney of trading settlement for wife’s job

KGI: The disagreements between the County Attorney’s Office and the former leadership at the Office of Prosecuting Attorney have re-ignited. Former Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho testified at a Kaua‘i County Council meeting Wednesday, accusing County Attorney Al Castillo of trading a lawsuit settlement for a job for his wife under the new OPA leadership.

Castillo denied the trade-off and said he would not dignify Iseri-Carvalho’s accusation, which also included a claim that he blocked investigation in the case to favor the settlement. But he ultimately recused himself from the executive session on the matter, and sent his First Deputy Attorney Marc Guyot in his place.

The council was scheduled to go behind closed doors on the matters regarding a settlement in the lawsuit filed by Second Deputy Prosecutor Rebecca Vogt against the county and the OPA. A county source, who asked to remain anonymous, said attorneys from both sides had agreed on $25,000 as the amount for a global settlement — there was also a complaint filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

But Iseri-Carvalho, a defendant in the lawsuit in her former capacity, showed up at the council chambers with former First Deputy Prosecutor Jake Delaplane in tow.

“This lawsuit is totally baseless, frivolous and without merit,” Iseri-Carvalho said. “It is my opinion that the county attorney, (Prosecutor) Justin Kollar and Becky Vogt concocted this scheme to sway the election in favor of Kollar with the promise that she would be rewarded not only with a gigantic pay increase she was desperately craving, but also a supervisory position

read … Just Another Day in the Nei

Maui News Publisher Pleads Not Guilty

MN: On Thursday, Jan. 24, before Wailuku District Court Judge Kelsey Kawano, Russo pleaded Not Guilty to two charges: failing to obey a police officer and disorderly conduct (a Maui News brief on the arraignment published the next day said Russo "pleads innocent," which is not technically correct).

read … Not Innocent

Scheme to Take over Hawaiian Electric Falls Apart

SA: Ted Peck, a former naval nuclear engineer who quit his job as the state's energy administrator to help start Ku‘oko‘a and was its president, also is no longer with the company.

Peck left in mid-December to take the top job in Hawaii with Johnson Controls, a global firm in the business of optimizing energy for buildings and automobiles. Peck would not talk about why he departed Ku‘oko‘a.

Five other executives also have left the company in the past year or so, along with most board directors, including T.J. Glauthier, a former deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, and R. James Woolsey, who once headed the Central Intelligence Agency.

Ku‘oko‘a's directors invested in the company and lended weight to the endeavor, which some observers knowledgeable in the energy industry regarded as impossible.

Aaron Landry, Ku‘oko‘a's chief operating officer, said in an email that the company remains committed to helping solve Hawaii's problem with dependency on fossil fuels, though buying Hawaiian Electric Industries is no longer a focus.

"We are restructuring," he said. "Our focus is not on buying out a utility. We are still focused on big-picture solutions for our energy situation."

Landry said only he and Richard Ha, a Hawaii island farmer who was the third co-founder of Ku‘oko‘a and its board chairman, are still formally involved with the company….

One person involved with the company said an inability to finance the plan led to its undoing….

Owning the utility was necessary, according to Marth, because the current ownership by shareholders that include banks and investment funds is focused on profit and has a disincentive to invest billions of dollars in renewable energy production.

Some observers who studied Marth's plan said the idea was good but pulling it off would be financially impossible. Others saw merit in trying. Yet others saw a fallacy promoted by Marth, a self-assured and convincing public speaker who moved to Hawaii in 2010 from Minnesota.

Marth estimated his plan's cost at roughly $35 billion, which was largely based on developing geothermal energy on Hawaii island and Maui for use on Oahu and other islands via undersea cable. The cost to buy Hawaiian Electric could be about $2.6 billion based on the company's present stock value.

Marth said that the huge investment would not only insulate electricity consumers from higher rates driven by oil prices, but that it would also lower the cost of electricity by one-third to one-half.

Raising the money to finance the plan was not a problem, Marth told an audience at a Rotary Club of Honolulu meeting last year. "I have 26 investment bankers that want to fund the deal," he said. "I'm fighting off the money right now."

Best Comment: “This plan was wacky from the get-go but it did provide the boss man with a shiny Tesla and great perks and like most of these venture deals, for as long as it lasted some folks got to live large and write off taxes.”

SA: Marth’s GF Shows off her Tesla

read … A Joke or a Scam?

How Much Did Marth Score from Gullible Hawaii ‘Investors’

CB: Kuokoa had $750,000 in start-up funds when it launched, according to news reports. But it no longer has any paid staff or contractors, according to Aaron Landry, who still serves as the company's chief operating officer despite taking a full-time job at a public relations firm last year….

Roald Marth founded the company, recruited its members and served as its CEO. He was also a source of controversy.  (Translation: Yet another Mainland con artist swoops in scoops up money and leaves laughing.)

Marth, who declined an interview request for this story, was a former motivational speaker who had been involved in start-up companies on the mainland. But he had no experience in the energy industry when he moved to Hawaii in 2010 to be with girlfriend Mina Brinkopf, a distribution planning engineer for HECO. Ten months after landing in Honolulu, he announced Kuokoa’s plans to take over HEI, one of the state’s largest publicly-traded companies.  SA: Marth’s GF Shows off her Tesla

But local business leaders were put off by his approach.

Pono Shim, president of Enterprise Honolulu, a private economic development agency, said that Marth approached him about joining the company in the early days of Kuokoa’s formation. Shim said that Marth offered him one million shares in the company at $1,000 a share, or $1 billion. Marth denied he made the financial offer at the time, though confirmed he had tried to recruit Shim to the board.

Shim didn’t join the company.

“I just didn’t trust him, and that was the bottom line for me,” he told Civil Beat in an interview this week.

Marth officially left Kuokoa toward the end of 2012 and is no longer living in Hawaii, according to Landry.

Peck said that he only saw Marth twice last year.

Landry said that Marth was more of an ideas person and not someone interested in the day-to-day operations of a company.

“He's great at building groups of people together, developing a mission and vision, and really being able to put the pieces together,” said Landry via Facebook chat. “But the boring day-to-day operations of things, he's less interested in.”  (Quick IQ Test: True or False: He took the money and ran?)

Marth still lists himself as CEO of Kuokoa on his personal website, where he is described as "an internationally recognized venture capitalist, technologist, author, strategist, and marketing guru."  (Suckers)

read … About the Idiots Who Lead Us

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