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Friday, May 1, 2015

Office of Hawaiian Affairs sheds support of Thirty Meter Telescope, ethanol to be removed from gasoline, road construction lags, no Obama library for Hawaii, huge Honolulu housing project advances, Ellison's airlines cuts back, new deal for Turtle Bay, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

copyright 2015 All Hawaii News all rights reserved
Hawaii Island's Saddle Road © 2015 All Hawaii News
State lawmakers are poised to scrap the long-standing mandate that gasoline sold in Hawaii must be mixed with ethanol, with House and Senate negotiators agreeing Thursday to a bill that would abandon the ethanol requirement at the end of this year. Star-Advertiser.

A Hawaii News Now investigation revealed hundreds of millions of dollars in federally funded highways projects have been stuck in the state bureaucracy for years, delaying badly needed improvements and the creation of construction jobs. A federal review found it takes three to four times as long for the average federal highway project to get started in Hawaii, compared to other states. Hawaii News Now.

A bill that would ban sex trafficking passed out of conference committee in the Hawaii Legislature on Thursday afternoon. Senate Bill 265 which would replace the charge of first-degree “promoting prostitution” with the term “sex trafficking.” Civil Beat.

Switching gender on birth certificates could get a lot easier for transgender people in Hawaii. A proposal to allow people to change gender on their birth certificates without having to undergo surgery cleared a legislative hurdle Thursday, sending the bill to the full Legislature for a vote on the brink of a legislative deadline. Star-Advertiser.

Environmental groups oppose gutting of environmental funds. 15 environmental groups have written an open letter to the State House and Senate finance committee chairs urging them not to appropriate money from, or modify in an any way, several vital environmental funds. Hawaii Independent.

It’s truth time for Hawaii’s medical marijuana bill. With the clock ticking on the current legislative session, House and Senate leaders are working today to forge an agreement on legislation to set up a statewide system of medical marijuana dispensaries. West Hawaii Today.

Hawaii could get an influx of $469.7 million for military construction and infrastructure investment as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. Associated Press.

Two units of the Hawaii Government Employees Association that include about 14,400 public workers have ratified a new two-year contract with the state and counties. Last week the union halted contract ratification voting for bargaining Units 3 and 4 after HGEA learned negotiators for the Hawaii State Teachers Association won larger across-the-board raises and a larger bonus than HGEA had negotiated for those units. Star-Advertiser.

It was always considered a long shot, but now it looks official: Honolulu will be missing out on the Barack Obama Presidential Library and Museum. Civil Beat.

President Barack Obama has chosen Chicago to host his future presidential library, two individuals with knowledge of the decision said Thursday. The University of Chicago's victory marks a letdown for the other three schools on the shortlist: the University of Hawaii, New York's Columbia University and the University of Illinois at Chicago, a public school that proposed building the library on Chicago's West Side. Star-Advertiser.

Island Air, the Hawaii interisland airline owned by Oracle Corp. co-founder Larry Ellison, will cut its workforce by 20 percent, close its operations on Kauai and cancel delivery of new aircraft in the short term as the airline works to reposition itself as the second largest airline in the Islands, the airline’s CEO said Thursday. Pacific Business News.

Oahu

Ho‘opili, the largest housing project to go before the Honolulu City Council in at least two decades, is one vote away from going to the mayor's office for consideration. Star-Advertiser.

A bill to rezone land in West Oahu for 11,750 new homes has cleared a major hurdle. The Honolulu City Council Zoning and Planning Committee voted to approve the measure Thursday after hours of debate and public testimony. Civil Beat.

A year after former Gov. Neil Abercrombie announced a historic $48.5 million deal to preserve 665 acres at Turtle Bay Resort in perpetuity, Gov. David Ige unveiled a new $45.5 million agreement that would protect less North Shore land, cost Honolulu taxpayers more money but save the state $5 million. Civil Beat.

A rejiggered plan to preserve much of Turtle Bay Resort from development was put into firm place Thursday. Star-Advertiser.

The Governor joined lawmakers and environmental group leaders to announce a tentative agreement today on funding for the purchase of conservation lands at Turtle Bay. Hawaii Public Radio.

A group of senators charged with investigating Sen. Brickwood Galuteria plans to recommend that he be allowed to keep his seat despite a complaint alleging he doesn’t actually live in his district of Kakaako and committed tax fraud. Civil Beat.

New rules for collecting aquarium fish are in effect for Oahu waters. The rules, put in place last month, include new limits on nets used to collect marine life, daily commercial bag limits, commercial size limits and a prohibition on the taking of some fish species. Star-Advertiser.

New changes are coming to the new cycle track on King Street. Starting next week, 13 traffic signals designed especially for bicyclists will be installed. The city will also start removing parking spaces next month, an effort Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell believes will make the bike lane safer. Hawaii News Now.

A plan to expand Oahu's sit-lie ordinance is advancing quickly through the Honolulu City Council despite warnings that it may be illegal. Star-Advertiser.

Federal, state and city officials broke ground for a new joint traffic management center that was supposed to be completed in 2012. Associated Press.

Every time you shell out rail tax on all your Oahu purchases, not all of that money goes to the transit project. The state skims a fee off the top, and that has amounted to more than $163 million already. Where does it all go? KHON2.

Hawaii

Trustees for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs on Thursday voted to rescind support for building a giant telescope near the summit of Mauna Kea, but did not outright oppose the project. Associated Press.

Sending what they described as a strong message to those with oversight of the Mauna Kea summit, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustees voted Thursday to rescind their support of the Thirty Meter Telescope. Star-Advertiser.

After listening to nearly four hours of testimony, members of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees voted Thursday to rescind their 2009 vote to support building the Thirty Meter Telescope near the summit of Mauna Kea. However, before passing the resolution they removed wording that said OHA actually opposes the telescope project. Civil Beat.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs have rescinded their support for the development of the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea, changing their 2009 stance on the controversial project. But the board stopped short of opposing the telescope entirely. Hawaii Public Radio.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs voted 6-1 Thursday to rescind its 2009 support for construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope near the summit of Mauna Kea. KITV4.

A bill requiring a greater commitment to farming in order to receive substantial property tax benefits will be back before the County Council Finance Committee on Tuesday. West Hawaii Today.

Construction of the $22.3 million Pahoa District Park, once paused due to the June 27 lava flow, restarted last week, Hawaii County officials said. The county gave the go-ahead to resume grubbing and grading work following a downgrade in the lava flow threat March 25 and consultation with Hawaiian Volcano Observatory and Civil Defense. Tribune-Herald.

What course should the state’s most popular national park take over the next two decades? The question is at the heart of a draft general management plan released for public comment today by Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The public has 60 days to weigh in on the three scenarios presented by the National Park Service. West Hawaii Today.

Maui

A half-dozen testifiers commented Wednesday evening on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's draft management plan to expand the size and to include multiple species in the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Maui News.

The Waikapu Country Town project that calls for hundreds of homes took a first step toward realization Wednesday after the state Land Use Commission gave its approval for developers to prepare an environmental impact statement. Maui News.

As the number of shark attacks in Maui continues to climb, researchers at the University of Hawaii are trying to figure out the reason. Associated Press.

Kauai

A group of Kauai citizens is currently seeking County Council action to place a proposal on the 2016 ballot to change our county’s governing structure to a council-manager system and replace the mayor-council system now in effect. Garden Island.

Five days before the first of two public hearings on Kauai about federally proposed changes to the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, fishermen, activists, surfers and scientists gathered at Port Allen Harbor Wednesday to spread the word that they have the power to shut down the changes if they make loud and strong their collective voice. Garden Island.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Rail tax, Turtle Bay, marijuana dispensaries unresolved as Legislature nears session end, bill seeks sponsors for public facilities, advertising could come to Honolulu zoo, lava puts on a show, Maui woman dies from shark bites, Kona courthouse funded, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

copyright 2015 All Hawaii News all rights reserved
Medical marijuana sign in Hilo © 2015 All Hawaii News
With only two days left to come to a decision, House and Senate lawmakers remain at odds over key aspects of legislation to establish medical marijuana dispensaries in the Aloha State 15 years after medi-pot was legalized here. Civil Beat.

Sen. Rosalyn Baker from Maui has revised Senate Bill 737 to re-insert a 36 percent cap on the annual percentage rate payday loan companies would be able to charge Hawaii residents. Civil Beat.

A proposal in Hawaii’s Legislature would expand a state mandate on fertility treatments to include same sex couples and single women, updating a law that now only offers such benefits to women who are married to men. Associated Press.

The state is moving closer to granting naming rights to those who are willing to put up money to pay for government facilities. State lawmakers are poised to pass House Bill 318, the first step to make it easier to allow for naming rights in public places like city parks. KHON2.

The Hawaiian Electric Cos. were among the top utilities in the United States for solar power in 2014, according to a new report. Pacific Business News.

The journey toward self-determination for Native Hawaiians does not come without its own form of growing pains. Hawaii Independent.

Oahu

State lawmakers spent less than three minutes Wednesday discussing the proposed rail tax extension in one of dozens of whirlwind sessions held during the day to hash out new bills before a Friday deadline. Star-Advertiser.

A proposal to extend Honolulu’s 0.5 percent General Excise Tax surcharge to help pay for the city’s controversial $6 billion rail project looks like it’ll come down to the wire. Civil Beat.

For the second year in a row, the state Legislature is nearing the end of its lawmaking session without a clear vision of how to pay for protecting about 665 acres at Turtle Bay Resort from hotel and housing development. Star-Advertiser.

Bills that would allow limited sponsorship of or advertising on exhibits or facilities at the Honolulu Zoo got a preliminary approval from the City Council Budget Committee on Wednesday. Star-Advertiser.

The Hawaii State Department of Health ordered the cleanup of the site of a former race track, known as Kalaeloa Raceway Park, Wednesday after finding hazardous wastes and used oil there. Civil Beat.

Hawaii

The House and Senate late Tuesday approved the additional $55 million in funding for the Kona Judiciary Complex, among more than $100 million dedicated to West Hawaii projects in the state budget for the next two years. The total also includes $2.5 million to design a federal inspections station at Kona International Airport, $1.2 million for a school and community commercial kitchen for Kona Pacific Public Charter School and $660,000 in state and federal funds to purchase land for the extension of the Daniel K. Inouye Highway to Queen Kaahumanu Highway. West Hawaii Today.

The rising lava lake at the summit of Kilauea Volcano has flowed over its rim onto the Halemaumau crater floor, according to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. Star-Advertiser.

For the first time in more than three decades, lava is flowing across the floor of Kilauea volcano’s Halema‘uma‘u Crater. Tribune-Herald.

Maui

A 65-year-old Kihei woman died Wednesday after she was apparently bitten by a shark while snorkeling — the third such fatality off south Maui in the past two years, the Maui Fire Department said. Star-Advertiser.

A deadly shark attack Wednesday morning has prompted officials to close beaches along parts of Maui. Hawaii News Now.

Kauai


Kauai's coral reefs remain under attack from black band disease, according to a new report that found the infection in nearly half of the corals surveyed around the island. Star-Advertiser.

Rising ocean temperatures may be part of the answer to a mystery state scientists are trying to uncover: What’s causing a deadly disease to thrive at the expense of Kauai’s coral reefs? Garden Island.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Hawaii House and Senate committee agrees on 'skinny' budget, Maui hospital privatization bill passes, sex trafficking, marijuana dispensary, nursing home bills still in limbo, Hawaii County mayor recall petition launched, Thirty Meter Telescope protesters get day in court, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

copyright 2015 All Hawaii News all rights reserved
Hawaii state Capitol © 2015 All Hawaii News
House and Senate lawmakers announced they have reached agreement on a new, "very skinny" state budget that would limit general fund spending to about $6.6 billion in the year ahead, or roughly the same total as Gov. David Ige proposed in the draft budget he submitted to lawmakers earlier this year. Star-Advertiser.

A panel of House and Senate lawmakers reached an agreement Tuesday on the final draft of the overall state budget, but some big spending questions will be settled later this week. The conference committee unanimously approved a budget that is $4.3 million over Gov. David Ige’s initial request for fiscal 2016, which starts July 1, and $53 million under his request for fiscal 2017. Civil Beat.

While Hawaii lawmakers discuss extending the general excise tax surcharge to help pay for the over-budget Honolulu rail project, there’s only one bill still alive in the Legislature that would give low-income residents a tax break. Senate Bill 555 would increase the food/excise tax credit, which hasn’t been changed since it was established in 2007. Civil Beat.

Hawaii is the last state in the nation without a comprehensive sex trafficking ban, and lawmakers are trying to shed that distinction. A conference committee of representatives and senators is working on the final version of a bill to ban sex trafficking, but the proposal previously met with resistance from law enforcement. A new version was presented in a hearing Tuesday, and the panel postponed making a decision until Thursday. Associated Press.

Hawaii lawmakers are considering a bill that could keep married couples together on the one hand, but risks displacing Medicaid clients in favor of private-pay clients. Civil Beat.

As the haggling about medical marijuana dispensary legislation enters the home stretch in Honolulu, state Sen. Josh Green, D-Kona, Ka‘u, is advocating the “start small” approach. But at least one Big Island lawmaker on the House side indicates agreement might not be easy to reach on how many dispensaries there should be. West Hawaii Today.

The Hawaii Legislature is passing a bill to ban powdered alcohol before the product has gone on sale in the state. KITV4.

When it comes to sex education in Hawaii, deciding how schools should address the subject is about as messy and confusing for the adults in charge as the topic itself can be for teenagers. Hawaii is one of just 10 states that does not mandate students be provided access to sex education or taught about HIV/AIDS in public schools. Civil Beat.

Oahu

A special tax credit established to help relocate maritime tenants on the Honolulu waterfront is poised to be expanded and sweetened in ways that some observers estimate could cost the state $20 million in the years ahead. Star-Advertiser.

Developer D.R. Horton polished its community service image Tuesday, two days before a potentially deciding City Council vote on whether to rezone 1,553 acres of Ewa farmland to build Horton's proposed 11,750-home Ho‘opili community. Star-Advertiser.

Oahu Community Correctional Center’s days could be numbered, as the city and state say it’s time for a new facility. KHON2.

A Honolulu City Council committee is looking into taking additional steps to lower homelessness on O’ahu, which increased by 4 percent over last year. Hawaii Public Radio.

The state Health Department has fined two companies nearly $40,000 for illegal dumping in former pineapple field in Whitmore Village. Hawaii News Now.

An exclusive look inside Oahu's illegal street racing scene. Hawaii News Now.

A new survey found that 93 incubator technology companies, who are or have been tenants of Manoa Innovation Center, had a total economic impact of $213.7 million on Hawaii, according to High Technology Development Corp.’s annual economic survey. Pacific Business News.

Hawaii

A Hilo man has begun collecting signatures on a petition to recall Mayor Billy Kenoi, who currently is being investigated by the state attorney general and is the subject of an ethics complaint for personal use of his government-issued credit card. West Hawaii Today.

During a relatively low-key proceeding, 21 of the 31 Thirty Meter Telescope protesters facing petty misdemeanor charges after being arrested on Mauna Kea earlier this month made their first appearance in Hilo District Court on Tuesday, with all but one receiving a refund for their $250 bail. Tribune-Herald.

On Sunday, the Tribune-Herald broke a story about a law group’s efforts to exonerate a co-defendant in one of Hawaii’s most notorious murders. On Monday, a key witness in that effort was dead.

The recent death of Hilo’s Dr. Djon Indra Lim highlights an ongoing shortage of cardiologists on Hawaii Island. For 40 years, Lim — who died April 15 at age 77 — filled a vital role in East Hawaii, and his loss is a major blow, said Hilo Medical Center Interim CEO Dan Brinkman. Tribune-Herald.

A rockfall from the wall of Halemaʻumaʻu Crater triggering an explosion at the lava lake at the summit of Kilauea volcano on Tuesday. The explosive event occurred around 10:20 a.m., and hurled large fragments of molten lava onto the rim of Halemaʻumaʻu Crater, 280 feet above the lake. Big Island Video News.

Maui

An estimated 250 people showed up for a public meeting last night in which board members of the Maui Regional System of the Hawaiʻi Health Systems Corporation discussed potential job and service cuts to deal with a projected $28 million budget gap. Maui Now.

Hawaii Health Systems Corp.'s Maui Region Board does not believe cuts to services, staffing and beds would allow Maui Memorial Medical Center to survive for the foreseeable future and stop it from bleeding money should a public-private partnership bill fail in the state Legislature. Maui News.

A panel of state lawmakers has approved a plan that paves the way for Maui hospitals to enter into a partnership deal. A conference committee of senators and representatives passed the bill late Tuesday. Associated Press.

Lawmakers passed historic legislation Tuesday that would allow Maui Memorial Medical Center and the Kula and Lanai Community hospitals to pursue a public-private partnership. Maui News.

State and House conferees approved of a bill on Tuesday that paves the way for the establishment of a public-private partnership for hospitals on Maui. Maui Now.

After years of unsuccessful tries, state lawmakers are poised to pass a deal that would eventually transform the Maui Memorial Medical Center and two other state-owned medical facilities into privately managed entities. Star-Advertiser.

A legislative conference committee made up of House and Senate lawmakers has finalized a bill that would allow a private entity to manage Maui County state hospital facilities in an effort to save the state millions of dollars in operating costs. Civil Beat.

Lower property tax and status quo water rates, along with higher user fees for the Waiehu Municipal Golf Course and Maui Bus, were part of the proposed budget presented by the Maui County Council's Budget and Finance Committee chairman Monday. Maui News.

Kauai
Transportation Security Administration agents confiscated a non-metallic knife with a 3.5-inch blade that a man tried to pass through security at Lihue Airport. Garden Island.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Kilauea lava lake attracts crowd, counties could get general excise tax surcharge by adopting roads in limbo, Honolulu rail worries businesses, ordnance removal a dangerous job, Marine Corps commander relieved of duties, half of Kauai coral diseased, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

courtesy National Parks Service
Kilauea lava lake, courtesy Mark Wasser NPS
The lava lake atop Kilauea continues to put on a breathtaking show, swelling Monday morning to yet another record high just a few feet shy of Overlook Vent’s rim. If the lava continues to rise, it soon could spill out of the vent and onto the floor of the larger Halema‘uma‘u Crater. Tribune-Herald.

A group of senators, led by Ways and Means Chairwoman Sen. Jill Tokuda (D, Kai­lua-Kane­ohe), proposed that any county be allowed to adopt a general excise tax surcharge for a limited time — but to do so, that county would also have to put in writing that it owns the disputed "public highways" there. Star-Advertiser.

So-called “roads in limbo” are the latest bargaining chip in the negotiations to extend Honolulu’s rail tax to help shore up an estimated $910 million shortfall. On Monday, state Sen. Jill Tokuda revealed her chamber’s latest version of House Bill 134 that would extend Oahu’s 0.5 percent General Excise Tax surcharge for rail for five years from 2022 to 2027 and allow neighboring counties to implement their own tax hike. Civil Beat.

A bill to create a limited purpose driver license for undocumented immigrants and other people lacking the usually required identification is awaiting a floor vote in the Hawaii House of Representatives. Civil Beat.

Contract ratification meetings resumed Monday for two units of the Hawaii Government Employees Association that are considering a proposed new agreement with the state and counties, but at least some union members are still unhappy with the settlement. Star-Advertiser.

Despite concerns from the Hawaii Department of Human Services, state lawmakers are advancing a bill that would relax rules on community care foster family homes to allow married elderly couples to live together despite their level of insurance coverage. Pacific Business News.

Hawaii’s senior population is increasing, but the funding of the state’s Kupuna Care program, which provides basic services to older adults who can’t live at home without help, has stayed flat for years. Senate Bill 964 would provide additional funding to the Kupuna Care program. It’s now in conference committee with a hearing scheduled Tuesday, and the specific dollar figures in the first draft have been converted to blanks while negotiations continue. Civil Beat.

State health officials have asked legislators to put an expiration date on a proposed law that could displace an unknown number of Medicaid clients who want to live at community care foster family homes. Civil Beat.

Oahu

As Oahu rail construction pushes closer toward town, more local businesses along the route are feeling the strain — and more are starting to air concerns that they won't be able to survive all the work. Star-Advertiser.

Col. Eric Schaefer, the commanding officer in charge of Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe, has been relieved of his duties. The announcement came around 9:15 p.m. on Monday evening. Military officials say the decision was made due to "loss of trust and confidence in his ability to lead his command." Hawaii News Now.

Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa has completed a $100 million renovation of the beachfront resort's 1,230 rooms, including Japa­nese bidet-style toilets with cleansing jet streams in each room. Star-Advertiser.

Tracking truth, transparency promises at Honolulu Police Department. KHON2.

Hawaii

Ordnance removal workers say job is hazardous, pay is unfair. West Hawaii Today.

Construction at the troubled Hu Honua Bioenergy plant in Pepeekeo again has met with delays after the company announced Monday the need to lay off employees. It was not clear how many employees were laid off or whether any work at the site was continuing. Tribune-Herald.

Big Island Mayor, Billy Kenoi, is in trouble for misusing his County P- card, charging nearly 130-thousand dollars in personal expenses.   But the Mayor is term limited next year and cannot run for re-election. What are his political options? Hawaii Public Radio.

A 35-year-old Pahoa man was tasered and arrested after he illegally deployed an unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone, Saturday night at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, according to the National Park Service. HVNP spokeswoman Jessica Ferracane on Monday identified the man as Travis Ray Sanders. Tribune-Herald.

The campaign to prevent the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope from becoming a reality on Mauna Kea has gone absolutely viral. Maybe a little too viral, according to anti-TMT leader Kea­loha Pisciotta, who said the recent cyberattacks on the state and TMT websites don't really fit into the movement's style of nonviolent protest. Star-Advertiser.

Frank Pauline Jr., one of three men convicted of the 1991 Christmas Eve murder and rape of Dana Ireland on Hawaii island, died Monday in a New Mexico prison yard. Star-Advertiser.

Amateur cinematographers on the Big Island looking for exposure will have an opportunity to share their versions of the world around them during a new Hawaii television series that showcases local talent. The show, called “Everything Hawaii,” premiers at 7:30 p.m. May 5 on OC16. West Hawaii Today.

Maui

The Maui Region of the Hawaiʻi Health Systems Corporation announced plans to initiate public discussion on what they are calling “imminent service and position cuts.” Maui Now.

Kauai

Half the coral reef sites surveyed by state scientists in nearshore Kauaian waters in the last year are plagued by disease, environmental officials announced Monday. Garden Island.

An islandwide power outage left many homes and businesses in the dark Monday night and Kauai Island Utility Cooperative asking customers to conserve energy to help weather the situation. KIUC spokesman Jim Kelly said their largest generator is down for maintenance through this week, and when the second generator went offline due to a mechanical problem about 5:45 p.m., different areas lost electricity. Garden Island.

Debris from a fishing boat has washed up in the Uhelekawawa Canal in Kapaa, about 100 yards inland from the Bull Shed Restaurant. Carl Berg, chairman of the Surfrider Foundation’s Kauai Chapter, said the two large boat pieces are similar to features found on Japanese fishing boats that have previously washed up on the island’s shores. Garden Island.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Mauna Kea telescope protestors shut down state website, invasive fire ants spotted at Thirty Meter Telescope protest site, Hawaii could be first state to raise smoking age, Sea-Based X-Band Radar could move to mainland, Kalaupapa plan released, Maui mulls recycling, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

copyright 2015 All Hawaii News all rights reserved
Mauna Kea sunset in the clouds © 2015 All Hawaii News
Hawaii state government’s official website went down Sunday, along with the main site for the organization building the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea. A group of hackers associated with Anonymous claimed responsibility for the cyberattack that began at 9:21 a.m. and lasted for several hours. Civil Beat.

The hacking group Anonymous claimed responsibility today for shutting down the websites for the Thirty Meter Telescope and state of Hawaii. Tribune-Herald.

The official website of the Hawaii state government was allegedly hacked by an online group opposed to construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea.  A Hawaii Community Affairs official confirms the telescope's website was hacked as well. Hawaii News Now.

Mauna Kea protesters who want to stop the Thirty Meter Telescope apparently brought with them a potentially destructive force of a different kind — invasive ants. Star-Advertiser.

The University of Hawaii Board of Regents listened to more than four hours of testimony Sunday from speakers opposing the Thirty Meter Telescope, with many Native Hawaiians expressing their spiritual and cultural connection to Mauna Kea where the $1.4 billion observatory is planned to be built. Tribune-Herald.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs will meet again on Thursday, April 30 where they are expected to (again) take a position on the Thirty Meter Telescope planned for the summit area of Mauna Kea. OHA voted to support the project in the past, but with the emergence of a vocal and determined opposition from beneficiaries, the Board of Trustees is entertaining the demand to reconsider. Big Island Video News.

As protests against the Thirty Meter Telescope continue, many critics say they’re worried that the $1.4 billion project will damage Mauna Kea’s pristine environment. Thirteen observatories have already been built on the top of the state’s tallest mountain, but the TMT will be by far the largest. Once completed, the observatory and its support building will span 1.4 acres. Civil Beat.

Putting a stop to the Thirty Meter Telescope also would mean losing $1 million a year for Native Hawaiian scholarships and other programs provided by the project’s education fund, an issue that the Office of Hawaiian Affairs board chairman is keeping in mind as the state agency faces pressure from protesters to change its endorsement. Tribune-Herald.

The author of a violent, profanity and hate-filled rant on Facebook that targeted supporters of the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea on the Big Island now says he's sorry. Hawaii News Now.

A bill that would make Hawaii the first state to raise the legal smoking age to 21 cleared the Legislature on Friday and is headed to the governor. The bill would prevent adolescents from smoking, buying or possessing both traditional and electronic cigarettes. Associated Press.

There’s a proposal in the State Legislature that could ban something you probably have in your home. Lawmakers are pushing to ban the manufacture and sale of personal care products that contain synthetic plastic microbeads, saying they’re harmful to marine life, possibly even carcinogenic. KHON2.

It's the final rush in the Legislature, and major decisions are looming on several issues, including the Hawaii Health Connector. All state-run insurance exchanges are required to be financially sustainable this year, and the federal government has been in discussions with the state about whether the Health Connector will be partially taken over by federal officials. Associated Press.

Suzanne Case, who has been with The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii for 28 years, won confirmation from the Hawaii state Senate to serve as the chair of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. Pacific Business News.

The Jones Act Pays Off — in Politics. The state’s delegation in Washington, D.C., enjoys outsized donations from maritime lobbyists, but several members told Civil Beat this doesn't affect their stances. Civil Beat.

Oahu

Honolulu's rail project faces a new challenge against its construction bid process, and the officials overseeing the project say this latest bid protest could create a ripple effect that might delay the project's completion and opening. Star-Advertiser.

The Honolulu Fire Commission gave Fire Chief Manuel Neves an excellent rating on his annual performance evaluation despite ongoing tensions between the chief and the firefighters union. Star-Advertiser.

Some in Congress want to move the Sea-Based X-Band Radar, otherwise known as the floating golf ball, from Pearl Harbor to the East Coast to provide greater missile defense over the Atlantic and a hedge against attacks from Iran. Star-Advertiser.

More than 40 veterans have been in limbo because they haven't been able to use their Housing Choice vouchers, which would cover all or most of their rent, due to the lack of affordable housing in Honolulu. Star-Advertiser.

A rekindled effort is underway to build homes with golf course views on a strip of land in Hawaii Kai once intended to become a city road. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii

The University of Hawaii at Hilo will receive $800,000 from the state Department of Transportation as part of the agreement forged around the widening of the Queen Kaahumanu Highway. West Hawaii Today.

When it’s not an election year, only the most faithful of the party faithful show up for the convention, as was the case Saturday when the Hawaii County Democratic Party held its annual event. West Hawaii Today.

The Hawaii Innocence Project has taken up the case of one of three men convicted for the 1991 rape and murder of Dana Ireland. Tribune-Herald.

Maui

Dozens of Maui Meadows residents had expressed a willingness to pay an extra $5 or $6 per month to keep their curbside recycling program, but cost estimates released last month by the Maui County Solid Waste Division have some residents reconsidering. Maui News.

House Speaker Joe Souki said Friday afternoon that he was "very confident" a version of the much-debated, public-private partnership bill for Maui Memorial Medical Center and the Kula and Lanai Community hospitals would be passed by the state Legislature. Maui News.

Mike Atherton, owner of Maui Tropical Plantation, has big plans for the small town of Waikapu and is looking to build thousands of homes and businesses in the area over the next decade. Maui News.

A group of youth volunteers spent recent weeks planting thousands of native trees on the leeward slopes of Haleakalā as part of an effort aimed at restoring dryland habitat for endangered native plant and bird species including the Kiwikiu or Maui Parrotbill bird, which numbered only 500 at last report. Maui Now.

Kauai

Providing quality service under a balanced budget is the goal. Kauai County officials say they’re hashing out their proposed fiscal year 2016 budget with both of those components in mind, but with collective bargaining raises coming online, that task has been difficult — and will require that some positions go unfilled. Garden Island.

County of Kauai officials say rough portions of several highly traveled roads are scheduled to be smoothed out over the next two years as a part of a $3.5 million initiative to address those in most need. Garden Island.

Kauai North Shore Community Foundation member Lorraine Mull and others are pushing for a public middle and high school on the North Shore. There are elementary schools in Hanalei and Kilauea but no public school on the North Shore that goes beyond the sixth grade. Garden Island.

Island residents and visitors still have an opportunity to view rare prints of plants collected during Capt. James Cook’s first of three Pacific voyages. Garden Island.

Molokai

The Kalaupapa National Historical Park Draft General Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement is now available for public review. Molokai Dispatch.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Hawaii national parks bring in the green, Ige to attend White House dinner for Japanese prime minister, less instruction, more pay for teachers, $14M wasted on computer system, three telescopes to be idled, $50M bond float likely, Oahu pig farm could close, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

copyright 2015 All Hawaii News all rights reserved
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Halemaʻumaʻu caldera © 2015 All Hawaii News
National park service visitation rebounded in 2014 in Hawaii, generating an estimated $417.3 million in economic benefits. Some 5.2 million people, or just over 6 percent more than in 2013, visited Hawaii's seven national parks last year, according to a visitor spending report Thursday by the National Park Service. Star-Advertiser.

More than 5.2 million visitors dished out an estimated $340.5 million around Hawaii’s national parks in 2014, according to a new report by the National Park Service. More than half that money, $175.6 million, was spent on the Big Isle, home to three parks and a historic site. West Hawaii Today.

Gov. David Ige's office says he will represent Hawaii at a White House state dinner honoring Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe next week. President Barack Obama will host the dinner for Abe on Tuesday. Associated Press.

Public schools will no longer be required to tally the number of "instructional" minutes students receive throughout the school year under revisions made to a 2010 law that mandates minimum learning time. Under Senate Bill 822, which Gov. David Ige signed into law Thursday, the term "instructional hours" in Act 167 has been replaced with "student hours," meaning learning time will now apply to any time that students are in school. Star-Advertiser.

A new law gives Hawaii public schools flexibility to create schedules based on the amount of days and hours required for a school year. The union representing Hawaii's public school teachers says Gov. David Ige signed the bill Thursday. Associated Press.

The price tag for the contract covering Hawaii's 13,500 public school teachers has climbed to more than $388 million now that the teachers union has negotiated additional compensation for the remaining two years of the deal. Under the settlement, which the Legislature is expected to approve, teachers will receive a one-time bonus in the fall; a boost to their base salary in two years; more paid professional development training; and a decrease in health insurance costs. Star-Advertiser.

Contract ratification meetings for members of two units of the Hawaii Government Employees Association were suspended by the union Thursday, a development that will delay indefinitely any agreement or raises for about 14,400 state, city and county workers. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii lawmakers are looking for ways to prop up the state’s financially struggling health exchange, and they’re considering cash from the general fund. All state-run insurance exchanges that are part of the Affordable Care Act must be financially sustainable this year. But the Hawaii Health Connector doesn’t have enough money for its operations. Associated Press.

The state spent $13.88 million on what was dubbed the "FAST" project to replace an out-of-date computer system in the state Highways Division, but the new system still doesn't work, and Gov. David Ige finally stepped in last month to cancel the project. Star-Advertiser.

The state spent $13.88 million on a failed effort to improve the Department of Transportation's financial accounting system, so the state terminated the contract last month, Gov. David Ige said Thursday. Hawaii News Now.

Oahu

A special Senate committee has adopted rules to govern its investigation into whether Sen. Brickwood Galuteria is qualified to serve in the Senate. The committee met briefly Thursday morning and plans to hold another hearing on Monday at 10 a.m. in response to a complaint alleging that Galuteria doesn’t actually live in Kakaako, the district he represents. Civil Beat.

Key state lawmakers in the House still want Oahu's rail tax cut in half if it is to be extended — and they also aim to put an end to any talk of neighbor islands enacting a surcharge to help fund transportation-related projects in their respective counties. Star-Advertiser.

State lawmakers are divided on how best to bail out Honolulu’s over-budget and underfunded commuter rail project that, when completed, will be the nation’s first fully driverless transit system. Civil Beat.

A long-awaited sludge-receiving station at the HPOWER waste-to-energy incineration facility opens next month at Campbell Industrial Park to try to reduce the need for landfill space on Oahu. Mayor Kirk Caldwell and other officials dedicated the $10.6 million injection station Thursday. Star-Advertiser.

The pit at the H-POWER plant has a sliding door that opens and a truck backs in, dumping a mixture of human waste and regular garbage down to the bottom. That nasty mixture is turned into sludge and burned. KITV4.

Shinsato Farm could close if a buyer for its Windward Oahu property can't be found, co-owner Amy Shinsato told Pacific Business News this week. The farm, which has been in business for about 75 years, produces pork that can be found on the menu in many Hawaii restaurants.

A Department of Land and Natural Resources crew on Thursday retrieved a 20-foot skiff from an Oahu shoreline area that may be debris from the March 2011 Japan tsunami. West Hawaii Today.

Some Leeward Oahu residents say a half-million dollar beautification project is compromising the safety of drivers. Concrete barriers are all along the median on Farrington Highway, but there’s about a mile stretch that’s strictly lined with plants. KHON2.

Hawaii

The Hawaii County Council will soon be asked to authorize borrowing as much as $50 million to $60 million in general obligation bonds, as Mayor Billy Kenoi works to finish a list of projects before his term ends late next year. West Hawaii Today.

Decommissioning of as many as three telescopes could be expedited as the University of Hawaii responds to protests from Native Hawaiians over the construction of the largest observatory yet on Mauna Kea. Tribune-Herald.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs board of trustees decided Thursday to formally reconsider its endorsement of the controversial Thirty Meter Telescope planned for the summit of Mauna Kea. The board, which voted to support the $1.4 billion telescope in 2009, scheduled a special meeting for Thursday. Star-Advertiser.

Battle Over Geothermal Contract Plays Out in Court and at PUC. Critics say they will contest a new geothermal energy deal between Hawaii Electric Light Co. and Ormat, its longtime partner. Civil Beat.

New kayak tour could make Kohala Ditch self-sustaining. West Hawaii Today.

Kona Brewing Co. announced Thursday that it will be expanding and moving its current brewery in Kona to a new, undisclosed location. West Hawaii Today.

The lava lake in Halemaumau at Kilauea’s summit could be visible from the edge of the caldera as early as today if it continues to rise, geologists say. The lake, which rises and falls during periods of inflationary or deflationary tilt, reached new heights Thursday afternoon when it was less than 70 feet from the crater floor, surpassing the last record from October 2012 by more than 2 feet. Tribune-Herald.

Maui

Tourism to Haleakalā National Park in 2014 generated more than $70.3 million in visitor spending and supported 837 jobs in the area, according to new data released by the National Park Service. Maui Now.

Kauai

A Hawaii family donated two perpetual conservation easements on Thursday to the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust. The donation comprises about 40 acres of wetland taro located in Waioli Valley and was given to ensure it remained in its natural state forever. Garden Island.

Hundreds of high school students had their day in court on Thursday, but it wasn’t for anything bad. Instead, the hour-long court proceeding allowed them to see the legal system in action as five state Supreme Court justices took on a longstanding dispute between the County of Kauai and State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers, which represents unionized Kauai Police Department employees. Garden Island.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Top elected officials popular with Hawaii voters, contrite Kenoi pitches county budget, raises for teachers, white-collar public employees, B&B big hassle for Kauai, Maui celebrates tobacco-free parks, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

courtesy photo
Hawaii Sens. Brian Schatz, Mazie Hirono, courtesy photo
Hawaii voters are generally quite content with their top elected officials but the support varies by island, age, gender and income, a new Civil Beat Poll shows. We surveyed 780 registered voters April 7-9, asking their opinion of U.S. Reps. Mark Takai and Tulsi Gabbard, U.S. Sens. Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz, Gov. David Ige, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and President Barack Obama.

Newly negotiated contracts that would award raises of 4 percent per year over a two-year period to about 15,240 unionized state and county employees are being put to statewide ratification votes this week, according to sources familiar with the negotiations. Star-Advertiser.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association, which represents 13,500 public school teachers, announced late Wednesday night that it had reached an agreement with the state for increased salary and benefits for the remaining two years of the teachers' current contract. Star-Advertiser.

As Gov. David Ige wends his way through his fifth month in office, there’s growing concern over who his administration will choose to fill several key positions guiding land and water use policy, environmental protection, longterm planning and development — all of which can literally shape Hawaii’s future. Civil Beat.

When Hilo resident Charlotte Kaide read about an elderly Oahu couple that, after 67 years of marriage, is being forced to live in separate care homes, she felt as if she was reliving a nightmare. Tribune-Herald.

The Thirty Meter Telescope isn't even on the agenda, but Thursday's meeting of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs board of trustees likely will be overwhelmed by the controversial $1.4 billion project. Star-Advertiser.

Oahu

Mayor Kirk Caldwell is warning Honolulu City Council members that efforts to expand the city's sit-lie sidewalk ban could make the existing law vulnerable to legal challenges. Star-Advertiser.

The Hawaii Senate has confirmed a district court judge nomination. William Domingo was confirmed Tuesday as a judge for Oahu First Circuit District Court. Associated Press.

About 5 p.m., pau-hana commute times were running more than two hours on H-1 from downtown to Kapolei because of a pedestrian death. Star-Advertiser.

Free parking at Honolulu Zoo to end soon. KHON2.

Hawaii

A subdued and outwardly contrite Mayor Billy Kenoi came before the County Council on Wednesday to talk about the budget, but first on his plate was a serving of humble pie. West Hawaii Today.

Embattled Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi on Wednesday morning made his first apology on Hawaii island for more than $129,000 in charges he billed to the county, including trips to Honolulu hostess bars. Star-Advertiser.

If everyone in the room didn’t already know about the state-wide controversy surrounding the Hawaii County mayor’s spending habits, they might have thought Billy Kenoi was apologizing for his proposed budget. Big Island Video News.

A handful of community members sounded off Wednesday on the recent government purchase card spending fiasco plaguing the office of Mayor Billy Kenoi. Big Island Video News.

A council briefing on the Hawaii County budget was overshadowed by the controversy surrounding embattled Mayor Billy Kenoi Wednesday morning. Hawaii News Now.

Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi appeared before the County Council Wednesday to begin a series of budget briefings. However, the hearing was dominated by the mayor's improper use of his county issued credit card, or pCard. KITV4.

Google Maps will soon offer transit directions for the Hawaii County’s bus system, Hele-On Bus, as part of a new community project. West Hawaii Today.

Of the more than 10,000 animals euthanized by the Hawaii Island Humane Society last year, only 3 percent fell into the category of adoptable, according to Hawaii Island Humane Society Executive Director Donna Whitaker. Tribune-Herald.

A breathtaking, oceanfront mega-mansion on the Big Island is back on the market and it can be yours for $8.2 million. The 9-plus acre "Waterfalling Estate" was originally listed in 2014 for $26.5 million. Hawaii News Now.

Maui

Today marks the one-year anniversary of a bill that effectively banned the use of tobacco at county parks, beaches and recreational facilities in Maui County. Maui Now.

A 40-foot fishing boat that ran aground two weeks ago and spilled 50 gallons of diesel fuel offshore of Koki Beach in Hana is expected to be removed in the next few days, U.S. Coast Guard and Maui County officials said. Maui News

Opinion: The saber-rattling between Maui County’s hospitals and their many friends in the county and state Legislature on one hand and Governor David Ige and the powerful Hawaii Government Employees Association (HGEA) that backs him on the other is getting serious. MauiTime.

The Maui region of the quasi-public body that runs Maui Memorial Medical Center has called a public meeting for Tuesday to discuss cuts in services and personnel to meet a projected $28 million shortfall for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Maui News.

Kauai

The Kauai County Council’s effort on Wednesday to regulate homestay and bed-and-breakfast operations islandwide was met with resistance. Garden Island.

Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. and the county’s budget team, Nadine Nakamura, Ken Shimonishi, and Sally Motta, will present a financial overview at the Wailua-Kapaa Neighborhood Association meeting at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Kapaa Library. Garden Island.

Protesters used Earth Day to rally against the delayed Thirty Meter Telescope project on Mauna Kea on the Big Island Wednesday at Kauai Community College. Garden Island.