What they're saying about Hawaii

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Friday, January 30, 2015

Hawaii coral recovering from bleaching, auditor blasts Obamacare health exchange, $4.4M added to Honolulu rail cost, Matson to pay $1M for molasses spill, NextEra promises $60M savings, Lanai City to be preserved, bill touts slot machines at airports, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

copyright 2015 All Hawaii News all rights reserved
Endemic Hawaiian white spotted toby amid damaged coral © 2015 All Hawaii News
Three months after Hawaii's corals endured the worst bleaching on record, state officials say island reefs could face conditions later this year that could produce even greater damage. Star-Advertiser.

A state audit released Thursday blasted the Hawaii Health Connector's former head and board of directors for inadequate planning, lack of oversight and improperly awarding contracts worth millions of dollars, resulting in an unsustainable health insurance exchange. Star-Advertiser.

In a biting report released Thursday, the state auditor calls the former head of the Hawaii Health Connector “an uncooperative executive director who withheld information,” hampering the board of directors’ ability to monitor the development of its massive IT system. Civil Beat.

Hawaii’s auditor says inadequate planning at the Hawaii Health Connector led to an unsustainable health exchange. Acting state auditor Jan Yamane made report on the Hawaii Health Connector on Thursday. Associated Press.

High operating costs, lack of strategic plan and misuse of authority made the Hawaii Health Connector unsustainable. That’s according to a new report by the state Office of the Auditor. KHON2.

Florida-based NextEra Energy Inc. made its pitch Thursday for state regulators to approve its purchase of Hawaiian Electric Industries, saying it would save ratepayers $60 million over four years, not raise base rates for four years and keep all management local. Star-Advertiser.

NextEra Energy and Hawaiian Electric Industries filed a joint application with Hawaii’s Public Utilities Commission on Thursday seeking approval of their $4.3 billion merger agreement. Civil Beat.

NextEra Energy Inc. and Hawaiian Electric Co. said Thursday that the proposed acquisition of Hawaii's largest utility will save customers about $60 million, and that there will be no request for an increase in general base rates for at least four years following the close of the transaction, according to an application submitted to the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission. Pacific Business News.

The Women’s Legislative Caucus, consisting of members from both the State Senate and House, today announced a joint package of measures for the 2015 legislative session. Hawaii Independent.

Hawaii has joined at least three other states in suing the maker and distributor of 5-Hour ENERGY drinks for allegedly making false, misleading and unsubstantiated claims about their products. Star-Advertiser.

Lynne Waters, who served as spokeswoman for the University of Hawaii system since 2011, is leaving Hawaii for a job with the University of Texas at Arlington. Star-Advertiser.

Oahu

While the public braces for the painful budget deficits ahead as rail moves forward, board members overseeing the Oahu project on Thursday approved $4.4 million in added costs to existing rail contracts. Star-Advertiser.

At Least $1.25B Has Been Spent on Rail So Far But Where Has All the Money Gone? The rail project has been in the works for more than 10 years but city and HART officials still can't — or won't — say what the money has been spent on. Secrecy over tens of millions of dollars in payments to subcontractors is only one troubling aspect. Civil Beat.

Trash workers’ payment system racks up major overtime. KHON2.

A federal judge is allowing a shipping company to pay $600,000 in restitution to environmental organizations as part of a sentence for spilling molasses in Honolulu Harbor. Star-Advertiser.

A federal judge on Thursday sentenced a subsidiary of Matson Inc. to pay $1 million in fines and restitution under a plea agreement reached last fall over charges that Hawaii's largest shipping company illegally discharged more than 230,000 gallons of molasses into Honolulu Harbor in 2013. Pacific Business News.

A federal judge is allowing a shipping company to pay $600,000 restitution to environmental organizations as part of a sentence for spilling molasses in Honolulu Harbor. Matson Navigation Co. was sentenced Thursday for criminal charges related to the 233,000-gallon molasses spill that killed more than 26,000 fish and other marine life. Associated Press.

Hawaii

Giving international travelers one last chance to spend money before they leave Hawaii, state Rep. Cindy Evans is proposing slot machines for international departure areas of airports. Evans, D-North Kona, North Kohala, South Kohala, is sponsoring HB 91, allowing the installation of slot machines, first at Honolulu Inter-national Airport, and later, once international flights return to West Hawaii, at Kona International Airport. West Hawaii Today.

Maui

Wesley Lo is Maui region chief executive officer for the state's Hawaii Health Systems Corp. and believes an agreement that his region has been negotiating with a potential private partner, Hawaii Pacific Health, could be a model for statewide application. Star-Advertiser.

Kauai

Nine individuals have been selected to serve as members on a joint fact-finding group tasked with looking into potential health and environmental impacts from pesticide use on Kauai. The $100,000 study, funded by the County of Kauai and the state Department of Agriculture and facilitated by Honolulu planner and mediator Peter Adler’s ACCORD 3.0 Network, is expected to last a year. Garden Island.

Several homeless people are accusing county enforcement of targeting them at a public park. Garden Island.

Kauai coral colonies have started to recover from a statewide bleaching event caused by a drastic spike in ocean temperatures this fall, according to state officials. More of the same, however, is likely right around the corner. Garden Island.

Lanai
A community desire to preserve the historic character of Lanai City moved Maui County Council members Wednesday to recommend approval of conditional rezoning for a 15,000-square-foot property with four plantation-era buildings, including a former police station and courthouse, a single-family residence, a garage/ laundry building and a jail cell. Maui News.


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Hawaiian Electric, NextEra to submit sale plans today, more Japan flights coming, Honolulu hiring practices blasted, prison site eyed, shearwater protections working, army hears downsizing concerns, chief justice gives state of the judiciary, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

copyright 2015 All Hawaii News all rights reserved
Hawaii Supreme Court building © 2015 All Hawaii News
The Chief Justice of the Hawai’i Supreme Court addressed lawmakers during a joint Senate and House session today. Hawaii Public Radio.

Executives from Hawaiian Electric Co. and NextEra Energy fielded questions for an hour and a half Wednesday from more than a dozen Hawaii lawmakers about what their proposed $4.3 billion merger would mean for Hawaii. Civil Beat.

Hawaiian Electric Co. and NextEra Energy Inc. plan to jointly submit their acquisition application, which will lay out the plans and commitments of the $4.3 billion deal, with the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission on Thursday. Pacific Business News.

An official at NextEra Energy told Hawaii lawmakers that his company does not plan to lay off staff if it acquires Hawaiian Electric. Associated Press.

Most of isles' coral recover from mass bleaching. Associated Press.

Editorial: Prison Guard Absenteeism: Get Set for More No-Shows on Super Bowl Sunday. In a "culture of corruption," dozens of Hawaii prison guards regularly abuse their sick leave, making their workplaces more expensive — and more dangerous. Civil Beat.

Oahu

City of Honolulu Hiring Practices: Not Everyone Gets a Fair Shot. Dozens of city jobs, some with six-figure salaries, aren't advertised before they're filled, which raises questions about fairness and whether the city is attracting top talent. Civil Beat.

A new proposal being floated at the State Legislature would have Dole Food Company trade thousands of acres of former pineapple land for the Oahu Community Correctional Center site in Kalihi, in a deal that could provide the state money to build a badly needed new prison. Hawaii News Now.

A standing-room-only crowd of mostly Army supporters but also some detractors turned out Wednesday in Wahiawa for the second of two "listening" sessions as the service weighs big troop cuts around the country, including in Hawaii. Star-Advertiser.

For a second straight night, U.S. Army officials listened to hours of testimony in a community listening session on proposed base cutbacks. But this time, the community was Wahiawa, which has had a military presence for decades. Hawaii News Now.

The Army wrapped up its last public meeting for Hawaii Wednesday night as residents voiced their concerns both for and against possible military cuts. For the second night in a row, people packed in to pour out their feelings on whether or not the Army should cut down on its troops in Hawaii. KITV4.

Nearly 400 people attended the first Army listening session in Waikīkī. The five and a half hour session was the longest yet and brought out vocal members of the community, who testified largely in favor of the Army reductions. Hawaii Public Radio.

The felony case involving an officer accused of sexual assault, has been dropped and cannot be brought up again in the future. KHON2.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell said he will likely sign a measure that will add four downtown and Chinatown pedestrian malls to the list of places where people cannot sit or lie. Star-Advertiser.

Patience is wearing thin for some Makiki residents after the delay of a construction project that has taken away dozens of parking spaces in their neighborhood. KHON2.

The city's plan to eliminate garbage service for 181 condominiums, apartments and other multifamily properties and nonprofit organizations has been halted temporarily by a state judge. Star-Advertiser.

Air Nippon Airways plans to double its number of flights from Tokyo to Honolulu from seven to 14, starting in July. Pacific Business News.

The U.S. Coast Guard is holding a cyber security exercise at the University of Hawaii's Manoa campus this week. Associated Press.

The Hawaii State Department of Health Hazard Evaluation and Emergency Response Office and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are responding to a 1,000 barrel (43,000 gallons) release of jet fuel from an above ground storage tank located on Sand Island Access Road at the Airport Service Group International facility. Hawaii News Now.

Hawaii

A lucrative side contract held by a county employee will end this year, after Mayor Billy Kenoi’s administration decided the county should buy its own pumping truck and bring the operation in-house. West Hawaii Today.

Hawaii Island residents are expressing concern about a number of proposed rule changes planned for the state’s medical marijuana program. About 30 people showed up Wednesday morning at the State Office Building in Hilo to hear from state Department of Health officials and share testimony on the plans for the program after its administration was transferred Jan. 1 from the state Department of Public Safety to the DOH. Tribune-Herald.

Hawaii Judiciary officials say they need more state funding to replace outdated and unsecure Hawaii island court facilities as well as to keep a program that aims to help young children whose parents are suspected of abuse and neglect. Star-Advertiser.

Longstanding security and logistical shortcomings at the Kona Courthouse came to glaring light Monday when detainees in a holding block went ballistic, putting operations in at least one courtroom on hold for an hour. West Hawaii Today.

The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands plans to meet privately with the Maku’u Farmers Association about the possibility of evacuation, should lava from the June 27 flow make its way to within 1,400 feet of the Popoki Target Area within Makuu Farm Lots. Big Island Video News.

More development is coming to Mohouli Street near Kaumana, though it’s not all starting as soon as the extensive land clearing suggests. Landowners on both sides of the Hilo street between Kaumana Drive and Kukuau Street have been clearing land for the past several months. Tribune-Herald.

Maui

Mayor Alan Arakawa foresees some kind of mass transit system in Maui's future, just not anytime soon, according to his spokesman and Maui County Managing Director Keith Regan, who expanded Tuesday on comments the mayor made to a Honolulu television station the day before. Maui News.

Maui Economic Development Board wants volunteers from the community to share their current and future priorities and values about energy on Maui as part of a project called “MPowerMaui: An Energy Conversation.” Maui Now.

Hawai‘i is seeing a dramatic shift to renewable energy resources driven by electric bills that cost roughly double the national average. Maui Now.

A little fire ant infestation has been discovered in Huelo and at a single property in Haiku - marking the fifth time the invasive species has evaded quarantine and established itself on Maui over the past year. Maui News.

Kauai

County officials are close to wrapping up a multi-million dollar effort to change out lights at park and stadium facilities on Kauai to curtail impacts on endangered seabirds. Garden Island.

Federal funding to combat homelessness will make its way to Kauai via state programs. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is awarding 45 Continuum of Care grants for the state of Hawaii, totaling $11.6 million. Garden Island.

Lanai


Lanai residents are frustrated that for now at least, Pulama Lana'i is not going forward with a proposed desalination plant to extract fresh water from saltwater, a decision that has thrown a monkey wrench into the Lanai Community Plan. Maui News.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Affordable housing lacking, Kaiser strike looming, Maui in trouble over injection wells, medical marijuana hearings begin, Coco Palms permits deferred, tempers flare over military meeting, geothermal drilling at issue, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

copyright 2015 All Hawaii News all rights reserved
Apartments in Honolulu © 2015 All Hawaii News
The cost of renting a home in Hawaii has jumped at least 10 percent over the past two years, according to a new study. And given the lack of construction of affordable units, the state’s housing crisis is projected to get worse. Civil Beat.

Hawai’i’s need for more affordable rental housing was the subject  of a briefing today before a Joint Legislative Housing Committee. Hawaii Public Radio.

Hawaii housing officials are reminding lawmakers that low-income families need more affordable housing. Associated Press.

Workers at Kaiser Permanente’s hospital and clinics in Hawaii plan to strike for six days beginning Feb. 2, the union representing them said Friday. Associated Press.

Kaiser Permanente Hawaii will temporarily close down 10 of its smaller clinics on Oahu and the neighbor islands during a planned six-day strike by nearly 1,900 union workers, or about 43 percent of its workforce. The state's largest health maintenance organization announced Tuesday that it will reschedule elective procedures and nonurgent appointments and close the smaller clinics while consolidating resources to its larger medical facilities. Star-Advertiser.

Kaiser Permanente Hawaii said Tuesday it plans to close 10 clinics on Oahu, Maui and Big Island and consolidate operations to its larger facilities next week, when unionized workers plan to walk off the job in what would be Unite Here! Local 5's first statewide strike in nearly 30 years. Pacific Business News.

Senate Committee Defers Public Records Bill. The Office of Information Practices objected to legislation requiring government agencies to maintain public records better. Civil Beat.

The Office of Information Practices, the agency responsible for making sure state officials and agencies are complying with open meeting and public records requirements of state law, is looking for a new home. Top on the wish list seems to be an administrative base where OIP can enjoy independence from undue political interference, and also minimize the inevitable conflicts that come from being part of state government while at the same time trying to hold state agencies and departments accountable. Civil Beat.

The state attorney general is asking the Legislature to pay more than $1 million to a former prison inmate who claims he became infertile because state prison doctors failed to properly treat him for an infection, and more than $450,000 to a woman whom a state jury found was sexually assaulted by a guard at the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility. Star-Advertiser.

Randy Iwase, the man who may be in charge of helping to shape Hawaii's energy scene came out of retirement because he believes he and other stakeholders have a duty to set a foundation for a sustainable renewable energy future for the state. Pacific Business News.

Opinion: Hawaii Needs An Effective Opposition Party. Republicans need a new strategy — and soon — if they're going to be the balancing political voice this state sorely needs. Civil Beat.

Volunteers are surveying the number of homeless people in Hawaii, counting those living in shelters or on the streets. The annual Point-in-Time count started Monday and will be conducted through Friday. Associated Press.

Living Hawaii: Who Can Afford to Retire in the Islands? Civil Beat.

Oahu

Tempers flared at a military meeting in Waikiki Tuesday night as Army leaders from the Pentagon invite the public to express how much of an impact a possible troop reduction in Hawaii could have. Hawaii News Now.

As the Army considers downsizing on Oahu, a theory making the rounds is that if Schofield Barracks and Wheeler Army Airfield close, the state would inherit lots of family housing and barracks for the public that could offset a housing crunch. Star-Advertiser.

U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii is holding two meetings, known as listening sessions, this week to get public feedback on possible troop reductions or restructuring here in Hawaii. Military spending is the second largest industry in Hawaii behind tourism. KHON2.

Under the $1.55 billion full funding grant agreement signed between the city, the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation and the Federal Transit Administration on Dec. 19, 2012, Honolulu must build an elevated rail line that’s 20 miles long, features 21 stations and has 80 rail cars. In addition, the rail line must open to the public by the revenue service date of Jan. 31, 2020. KITV4.

Hawaiian Electric Co. can safely connect almost 10 times the amount of solar generation the electric utility currently allows, according to a recent test sponsored in part by HECO. Star-Advertiser.

Opinion:  Stop broadcast license renewals for the Raycom Media cartel. The danger of the Hawaii News Now media monopoly. Hawaii Independent.

Hawaii

Big Island residents will be able to weigh in today on a number of administrative rule changes related to Hawaii’s medical marijuana program. Among the proposed changes are a new process for the Department of Health to consider approval of additional medical conditions to be covered by the state’s medical marijuana program; a new system of application processing, registrations, monitoring and disciplinary actions; physician requirements to participate in the program; registration of qualifying patients and primary caregivers; monitoring and corrective action; and procedures for maintaining confidentiality for patients and caregivers. Tribune-Herald.

Does Hawaii County’s nighttime drilling ban apply to Puna Geothermal Venture? That’s a question the County Council will grapple with again next week as the geothermal power plant in Pohoiki starts another around-the-clock drilling project to build a new well. Tribune-Herald.

Celebration hosted for Kona’s newest “lifeline” road. West Hawaii Today.

Residents of the Kona Ocean View subdivision finally have their water. But they will have to wait a little longer before the roads are put back together. The county Water Board on Tuesday agreed to add $183,150 and extend to Feb. 28 its contract with Koga Engineering and Construction Inc. so the contractor can repave subdivision roads that were in worse shape than first thought. West Hawaii Today.

Maui

For the second time in less than a year, a federal judge has ruled that the use of injection wells at Maui County's sewage treatment plant in Lahaina violates the federal Clean Water Act, a finding that could lead to a large penalty. Star-Advertiser.

A federal judge effectively ruled Friday that all four injection wells at the Lahaina wastewater facility are "illegal" and in violation of the Clean Water Act, leaving the county open to tens of thousands of dollars a day in civil penalties, a lawyer for a group suing the county over the wells said. Maui News.

Maui legislators and county officials said Hawaii Gov. David Ige gave a "very positive" and "pleasant" speech Monday morning at the state Capitol, though it was what he didn't say in his first State of the State address that caught some attention. Maui News.

Kauai

In what marked their first bid to rebuild the Coco Palms Resort, developers from Coco Palms Hui LLC were greeted on Tuesday with a mixture of praise and skepticism before the county board charged with approving the building permits for their $135 million restoration project. The County Planning Commission unanimously deferred any decisions on the project until their 9 a.m. meeting on Feb. 10, but not before residents and visitors alike shared their two cents on renewed efforts to restore and reconstruct the Wailua resort, which has been closed since Hurricane Iniki struck Kauai in 1992. Garden Island.

Hawaii Dairy Farms has submitted an environmental impact statement preparation notice to the state Department of Health for its proposed $17.5 million dairy in Mahaulepu Valley. It is the first step in moving forward with the study, which HDF has agreed to conduct voluntarily in light of public concern surrounding the project. Garden Island.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Nine media takes on Ige's State of the State address, environmentalists slam DLNR pick, Honolulu mayor grilled over rail tax, Hawaii mayor seeks insurance reform for lava threat, a train for Maui, Hawaii 10th in Chinese investors, more news from all the Hawaiian islands

26 January 2015 courtesy governor's office
Ige delivers State of the State address, governor's courtesy photo
Gov. David Ige's first State of the State address to the Legislature on Monday painted broad strokes and offered only a smattering of details, but that was OK with many of the folks who took in the 30-minute address. Star-Advertiser.

Fiscal responsibility took center stage in Hawaii Gov. David Ige’s first State of the State address Monday, a natural emphasis for the recently elected engineer and former leader of the Senate money committee. Star-Advertiser.

Gov. David Ige wants to build a better home for the state’s young and elderly. But to do that, the state needs more money. The state’s tight financial situation and the need for money to make Hawaii a better place to live were themes of Ige’s State of the State address on Monday. Associated Press.

Less than sixty days into his first term as governor, David Ige spoke openly about the challenges facing Hawaii's future, particularly those involving the state's economy, in his first ‘State of the State' address Monday morning. Hawaii News Now.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige says he plans to be more aggressive about bringing federal money to Hawaii. Ige says federal officials told him about $940 million is available to the state for projects. Associated Press.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige delivered his first State of the State address, raising issues that ranged from government spending, education, economic growth and energy. Hawaii Public Radio.

Gov. David Ige gave his first State of the State Address on Monday morning. His focus is on building affordable housing, balancing the budget and jobs. KITV4.

In his first State of the State address to a joint session of the State Legislature Monday morning, Gov. David Ige spoke of various issues that he sees challenging Hawaii in the months ahead. KHON2.

Nearly two dozen environmental groups on Monday called on Gov. David Ige to withdraw his nomination of development executive Carleton Ching to lead the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. Ching lacks expertise and experience in areas the department oversees including forests, coral reefs, fishing and hunting, the groups said in a statement. Associated Press.

Part of the environmental community is in an uproar over Gov. David Ige's choice for the Department of Land and Natural Resources director. They say they were blindsided about the decision to appoint Carleton Ching. KITV4.

About 20 environmental groups are calling for Gov. David Ige to withdraw his nomination of a land development company executive to lead the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, but Ige said Monday that the confirmation process should determine whether his pick is acceptable. Star-Advertiser.

Only a few hours after Gov. David Ige had announced his nomination of Castle & Cooke lobbyist Carleton Ching to chair the Department of Land and Natural Resources, environmentalists were harshly criticizing the selection. Civil Beat.

Conservationists mobilize against Ige’s DLNR nomination. More than twenty groups oppose Carleton Ching as new chair of the land and resource-management arm of the executive branch of the state government. Hawaii Independent.

Ten years ago, Ching called for LUC to be dismantled. Hawaii Independent.

It is time for Hawaii’s police departments to move into the 21st Century with less secrecy as well as clearer policies and more accountability to the public. That’s what key lawmakers say they will be urging this session as they introduce a record number of bills to modernize island police departments, which some critics say have become self-regulating fiefdoms. Civil Beat.

Hawaii's energy sector will get a lot of attention during this year's legislative session. Pacific Business News.

There’s a lot on the agenda for the first full week of Hawaii’s 2015 legislative session. Lawmakers introduced more than 650 bills in the span of two days. The proposals range from allowing dogs in restaurants to encouraging public participation in government. Associated Press.

Life of the Land, a Hawaii-focused environmental and community action group, asked the public Monday to get involved with the potential sale of Hawaiian Electric Industries to NextEra Energy Inc. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii is the 10th most popular state in the U.S. with Chinese investors, who rank Honolulu, Kailua, Kapolei, Lahaina and Kapalua as their top five destinations to buy real estate, according to a new report by Juwai.com, an international real estate website for Chinese buyers. Pacific Business News.

Hawaii will receive $11.6 million of Continuum Care awards to help combat homelessness, it was announced Monday. Civil Beat.

Continuums of Care set out Monday all over the state to count the number of homeless Hawaii residents living in emergency shelters, transitional housing programs or unsheltered on the streets. Their point-in-time counts, which ask the question, "Where did you sleep on Jan. 25?" will be conducted through Friday. Star-Advertiser.

The Hawaii Health Connector and Hawaii Department of Human Services are working together to ensure migrants from Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands have health insurance before their Medicaid benefits dissolve. Pacific Business News.

Oahu

Extending the rail tax is needed right now to keep Oahu's cash-strapped rail project out of serious jeopardy, Hono­lulu's mayor told a panel of state lawmakers Monday — part of his pitch to persuade them to lift the tax's sunset during this legislative session. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii lawmakers took turns hammering Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell on Monday over his request to let the county continue charging a half-percent surcharge on the General Excise Tax to fund the city’s rail project. Civil Beat.

The city's rail project faces a shortfall of anywhere from $500 to $900 million and Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell got some serious pushback from state legislators Monday about extending the tax to pay for rail. Hawaii News Now.

If Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell has it his way, Oahu residents will keep paying the added rail tax for a long time to come. It's not something the mayor wants to do, but it's something the city says has to happen to keep the project going. KITV4.

The University of Hawaii at Manoa Athletics Department is “a significant part” of Hawaii’s economy. That’s according to a report produced by the Shidler College of Business, which says that in fiscal year 2013-14, the department generated $66 million in local spending on labor, goods and services. Civil Beat.

Three types of Air Force fighter aircraft — F-22s, F-15s and camouflage-painted F-16s — dramatically roared off Hono­lulu Airport's Reef Runway on Monday as part of the Hawaii Air National Guard's ongoing Sentry Aloha air combat exercise. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii

Insurance reform and roads for Puna, and an international airport for Kona top Mayor Billy Kenoi’s wish list to the state Legislature. In his annual presentation to a joint meeting Monday of the House Finance and Senate Ways and Means committees in Honolulu, Kenoi stressed the threat a looming lava flow holds over lower Puna, and said insurance reform is needed so residents don’t lose their homeowner policies. West Hawaii Today.

The June 27 lava flow was 0.36 miles from Highway 130 on Monday morning after advancing 50 yards in the past day. The advance along a northern breakout was the first forward progress seen in about five days, said Darryl Oliveira, Hawaii County Civil Defense administrator. Tribune-Herald.

Hilo will host the Big Island’s lone public hearing on new rules for the medical use of marijuana. A total of four hearings are planned statewide by the Hawaii Department of Health. West Hawaii Today.

Maui

The debate about rail transit on Oahu has been ongoing for the past 10 years, but there is a project being quietly considered for the island of Maui. Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa says if such a project is built, it will not be anything like Oahu’s rail system. KHON2.

Kauai

The rules have been adopted. A request for a contested case hearing has been thrown out. Only one thing is stopping the Haena Community Based Subsistence Fishery Area from becoming a reality: Gov. David Ige’s signature. Garden Island.

Gov. David Ige’s first State of the State address on Monday struck a chord with some county officials and state lawmakers from Kauai. Garden Island.

Local environmental groups are shaking their heads at newly elected Gov. David Ige’s nomination of Honolulu-based developer and lobbyist Carleton Ching to chair the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. Garden Island.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Hawaii Gov. David Ige's State of the State address to a joint session of the Hawaii Legislature


photo screen grab courtesy Olelo public TV
Hawaii Gov. David Ige, courtesy Olelo community access television

Mister Speaker, Madame President, former governors, distinguished justices of the courts, representatives of our congressional delegation, members of the Hawaii State Legislature, other elected officials, honored guests, family and friends,

Aloha.

I am honored to be here today to deliver my first State of the State address. It is, of course, a homecoming of sorts with so many familiar faces and friends. Yet there is one major difference since I last sat among you:

I am a year older with a few more grey hairs.

To say that the last month has been an eye opener would be an understatement, as all the former governors here will understand. But it’s not so much about being overwhelmed as it is about being invigorated and challenged. And we have a mountain of challenges to climb.

And so I hope we can climb it together—because as I said at my inauguration: Alone, it is a daunting and overwhelming task.

But I have always been an optimist and a believer in people and the power they hold within them. That’s why I’ve always looked to others for help with answers; why I’ve always sought to harness the power of collaboration.

When I met with my cabinet during a retreat recently I asked them, what does Hawaii mean to them? What drove them? What directed their actions? While there were many different answers and perspectives, one word kept coming up over and over again:

Home. 

It’s a sentiment I intimately understand.

After I graduated from the University of Hawaii, I was fortunate enough to be offered a number of jobs. But only one was located in Hawaii and that’s the one I accepted. To this day, I know it was the right choice because this is my home.

For me, that one word brings everything into focus and gives purpose and direction to everything we do. And what is it we really do here at the Capitol?

It’s quite simple: We are building a home for our kupuna, ourselves and our children.

We build schools, hospitals, community centers, and places to work and play. And we safeguard the things that are important to us: our families, our freedoms, our environment and our future—because this is our home.


As any carpenter knows, building a good home takes time, money and skill. And he or she will also tell you no matter what kind of house you build, you begin at the beginning—with a strong foundation.

That’s what I find myself doing as your new governor: building a solid foundation for this administration, for the work ahead and for the people of Hawaii.


FINANCE
In addition, home building begins with sound and long-term financing. It means working both the income and spending sides of the ledger. I recently submitted a preliminary budget that maintains state programs at current spending levels based on two sobering realities: 

First, we have fully committed our current funds to existing programs and services, and

Second, we are spending more than we take in.

While we work to correct that imbalance, we need to focus our available resources on strategic investments that grow our economy and strengthen our social safety net. In other words, we need to use the funds we have more efficiently and leverage it whenever possible.

Income
For example, we can be more aggressive in seeking federal funds in a wide array of areas.

Federal officials tell me there is significant money—about $940 million—available to the state for the right projects, proposed for the right reasons and at the right time.

That’s why I’m pleased to announce the appointment of Elizabeth Kim as a Special Advisor to the Governor. Elizabeth’s impressive experience in Washington D.C. will help the state tremendously in securing more federal dollars. We all know Elizabeth’s story: a bright and talented person from Hawaii who wants to come home, but can’t find the opportunity to do so.

I am committed to creating more opportunities, not just for Elizabeth, but for all of our children   to return home to fulfill their dreams and contribute to Hawaii.

We also need to do a better job of collecting taxes already on the books.

The tax department, headed by Maria Zielinski, is preparing to implement a Tax System Modernization program this year. The upgrade will better secure tax information and increase tax revenues through its efficiencies.

While the project is expected to take several years, we should see a sizable increase in tax collections after the first two years. Moreover, the effort is projected to eventually pay for itself through these increased revenues.

Taxpayers will also benefit by being able to file their returns electronically, having access to online account information, and getting faster payments and refunds.
Spending
On the spending side, I believe we can do a number of things which center around a single change in mindset: Making government more efficient. I cannot stress how important I believe this one factor is.

I recently met with Mike Buskey, President of GameStop, a multimillion dollar, video-game retailer. The company operates almost 6,500 stores throughout the world and is a major player in the electronics sector.

He said, if the rate of change inside a company does not exceed the rate of change outside the company, it will result in devastating losses to its shareholders, even bankruptcy. It made me wonder about the number of people who would be affected, if change within our state government failed to exceed the rate of change in the world?

That truly would be devastating, resulting in government unable to meet the needs of its people.

But what about the opposite scenario?

I remember when I was in the Senate, we committed to going paperless and eliminating millions of unnecessary sheets of paper and its related costs. It was not an easy transition and it was tough to change the way we always did things for decades. But we did.

As a result, the Senate generated more than $1.2 million in savings over two years. In the process, we saved nearly 8 million sheets of paper or the equivalent of 800 trees each year.

Can you imagine what we could do, if all of state government looked for these kinds of opportunities?

For example, I am told that the state goes through about 1 million pages a month. That’s about 12 million pages a year. A little effort could go a long way to alter that. A change in mindset could take us so much further. We must reduce the amount of paper we use every day.

I am committed to transforming the culture of government to embrace and accelerate change. We need to invest in our employees and ask them what changes can be made to improve service and reduce costs. And we need to support them when we make those changes.

Leveraging our dollars and maximizing our investments also go a long way in creating savings.

I recently attended the ground breaking for Kapolei Lofts, a public-private partnership with the State, the City and a private developer. This rental housing project will provide nearly 500 much needed homes on Oahu, including 300 units that will remain affordable for the next 30 years.

The state provided an interim loan of $5 million and is a good example of how low-cost government investment tools can be used to create affordable homes for working families.


DIRECTING GROWTH
While we’re talking about building homes, let me bring up a related subject. Honolulu’s rail system is often viewed as a response to the growth of our suburban neighborhoods. While that is true today, it doesn’t have to be that way in the future.

Rail can be the driver to help us build future communities on Oahu—to sensibly direct growth, protect open space and agriculture, stimulate business, reinvigorate older neighborhoods, and build affordable homes. In fact, the state is the largest owner of parcels along the transit route.

Consequently, I will be filling a position in the Office of Planning to help us assess and evaluate those parcels specifically to build affordable homes.

Because that is one of this administration’s main goals.

We are also adding $100 million to the rental assistance revolving fund that can be leveraged with private money and state owned lands along the transit route to provide rental homes for working families. In addition, we are providing $25.3 million to construct a long-term care facility for veterans. Those funds will be matched with $37.4 million from the federal government.

We can also generate additional federal dollars by identifying defense interests along the transit route and seeing if our plans can mesh with the military’s to create a win-win situation. In these ways, federal funds can be tapped not just for our transportation needs but for community building.

And let me make one thing clear: This governor wants rail to succeed and I’m committed to it. Having said that, let’s also make sure we do things the right way for the right reasons, including cost containment, before we ask for more money.

HEALTH
Ask anyone who suffers from long-term illnesses. Nothing matters if you don’t have your health. Fully enjoying home and family presupposes good health. Lucky you live Hawaii for so many reasons, including one of the healthiest lifestyles and the longest life expectancies in the nation.

Hawaii’s Prepaid Healthcare Act has had a lot to do with those outcomes. In addition, it has brought us closest to achieving universal healthcare among all states. With the passage of the Affordable Care Act and the launching of Hawaii’s Health Connector, we can close that gap.  But we’ve got work to do.

I will not minimize the disappointments we’ve all felt with the Health Connector. But I will not dwell on them either.

That’s why we’re working closely with all stakeholders to ensure that we move toward a sustainable exchange, one that meets the requirements of the Affordable Care Act without endangering Hawaii’s Prepaid Healthcare.  


Despite the negative headlines, we are not that far away. Universal healthcare is within our grasp in Hawaii. And if we work together and focus on execution, I have every confidence we can achieve this.

Public Hospitals
We enjoy many benefits of being an island state cradled in the middle of the Pacific. But there are also disadvantages. Unlike other states, good healthcare is not easily distributed throughout the islands. Our families and doctors cannot simply drive to another hospital if one is busy or does not have the services they need.

We have some wonderful private hospitals, but not everyone has access to them. That’s why our public hospitals play such an important role in Hawaii—a greater one than in most other states. That’s especially true on our neighbor islands where they’re often the only provider of acute care.

Public-private partnerships offer great potential, but only if they are shaped in the right way. But no matter our direction, changing how we operate our hospitals to meet changing needs will be key to any long-term solution.


ENERGY
A home also needs a sustainable and reliable source of energy. Importing fossil fuel remains one of our greatest weaknesses and we simply must move to reduce our dependence on it. We have the locally generated resources that can allow us to be self-sufficient. We just need to move in concert toward that goal.

As our largest provider of energy, Hawaiian Electric will have a lot to do with our success or failure. That’s why, as discussions with NextEra proceed, I am asking Randy Iwase, the new head of the Public Utilities Commission, to be actively involved in those talks.

In addition, we will be restructuring and staffing the PUC to give it the expertise and resources needed to deal with its due diligence. I will also be assigning a special counsel to protect the public’s interest for the short and long term.


A STRONG SUPPORT NETWORK
The home we build in Hawaii needs a strong support network in so many areas.

Business
We need to support business and industry so that they can grow our economy and create jobs. That includes our visitor industry, which has had three straight record setting years in arrivals and spending, totaling about $15 billion and supporting 175,000 jobs statewide.

It also includes the thousands of small businesses that make up the core of our economic engine—those ma and pa stores whose predecessors include success stories like Foodland, City Mill and the ABC Stores.


We need to nurture an “innovation economy,” in which entrepreneurs use technology to develop new processes and products from existing ones, like smart phone makers who have taken their products far beyond the original concept of a mobile phone and created entire new markets.

It’s a whole new economic paradigm which we need to support with modern infrastructure, whether it’s expanding our broadband network or building innovation parks. That’s why we are providing $10 million for the HI Growth initiative to support innovation.

Agriculture
We need to support agriculture and help our local farmers dramatically increase the amount of food we grow locally. Hawaii grows about 10 to 15 percent of the total foods residents consume. If we are to become a sustainable society, we must increase those numbers.
The cost of importing foods adds up to more than $3 billion leaving the state annually. If we replace just 10 percent of imports with locally grown food, it would generate $188 million in total sales, $94 million for farmers, $47 million in wages, $6 million in new taxes and 2,300 jobs.

To do that, we need to preserve farm lands, develop agricultural parks, combat invasive species, and reassess the areas that determine whether a local farmer can survive.

We will be meeting with farmers from each island to hear what they need to make Hawaii more self-sufficient. And I’ve asked Agriculture Director Scott Enright to spearhead this effort.

In the meantime, we are adding $5 million to the agriculture loan program and expanding use of the fund to include biosecurity and food safety needs. 

Military
We need to support our military whose courage and commitment to our nation’s security keeps Hawaii and the rest of the country safe and strong. From our strategic location in the Pacific comes a responsibility that we cannot shirk.

Moreover, the military plays a significant part in our economy, spending more than $6.5 billion annually with a total economic impact of $14.7 billion. It is the second largest sector of our economy supporting more than 101,000 jobs.

Even with the Pentagon’s new focus on the Pacific, there is no guarantee that we can protect the military’s presence in the islands simply because of our geographic location. We will need to be proactive and aggressive in our efforts to support our troops here. And I am prepared to do just that.

Native Hawaiians
We need to fulfill our obligations to our host culture whose sense of aloha influences everything we do. As we speak, the Hōkūleʻa and its sister ship are sailing across the oceans to call for a more sustainable world.

Their voyage banner, Mālama Honua, means “to care for our earth.”  Living on an island, we know better than most that the limited resources of this planet must be protected if we are to thrive as a species. That is the lesson offered by our host culture. It is their gift to all of us.
I am pleased that Nainoa Thompson is with us today and would like recognize him for the many contributions he has made to the Polynesian Voyaging Society and the people of Hawaii.

University of Hawaii
We also need a strong university system to help educate our future leaders and citizens and create a place where innovation, original thinking and technology flourishes—a university system not just engaged in the community but leading it into the future.

In that regard its goals must be clear; its planning must be precise; its actions must be forthright. I challenge our university leaders to focus on execution, accountability and delivery in all that they do.


EDUCATION
We all know that education is the key that opens the door to success. It has the power to lift a family out of poverty and despair. It has the power to turn dreams into reality. And it has the potential to do so much more for our own children.

But before education can transform them, we must transform our school system.

Waipahu High School is a wonderful example of a high performance school with strong leadership from the principal who seeks to empower students, teachers and the community; high expectations for students; and hard-working teachers and staff committed to innovative and creative academies to help students learn.

Together, they’ve generated amazing results including: increasing reading and math performances, graduation rates, the number of students going to college and satisfaction levels from all stakeholders.

With us today is Waipahu principal Keith Hayashi. I would like Keith to stand and be recognized.

We have many excellent, high performing schools in our communities.  The question is how do we unleash them? I know that the best way to improve student learning is to empower schools and give those closest to our children the authority and resources to take action.

As Governor, I will appoint members to the Board of Education who embrace school empowerment of our principals and teachers as the key to ensure student success. I challenge the leaders of public education to stop issuing mandates from the state office and to focus on empowering schools and delivering resources to the school level.

In the current budget, we are requesting an increase for the Department of Education’s Weighted Student Formula. This will allow principals to decide how to spend this portion of the DOE's budget and how to best meet the needs of their students.

And it will give our children greater educational opportunities.


KO KA KOU HOME
My Mom grew up in Kahuku. At the time schools there only went to the eighth grade. And so her parents knew that if she was to have any kind of future she had to go away for high school. Somehow they scraped up enough money to send her to Denver Colorado to continue her schooling. After graduation she went on to become a nurse.

Eventually, she came back home to work and, with my father, raised six children, including a future grateful governor.

The point is my grandparents understood the value of education and were willing to sacrifice for it. So did my parents. When we became parents, ourselves, my wife and I did the same for our children. They are presently away at school pursuing their own hopes and dreams. But I know they too want to come home after college.

The story is the same for so many families in Hawaii. It’s repeated over and over again, generation after generation.

I know what it’s like to scrimp and save to buy a home and pay for tuition. I know what it’s like to struggle to make ends meet.

The sacrifices are the same, because the dreams are the same: to build a better life—and build it, not anywhere else, but here in the islands—because it is home.

And so, again, I ask all of you to remember why we’re here and why we do what we do:

Ko ka kou home. This is our home.

Let that be your focus. Let that direct your actions and drive your determination. Let the end, not justify the means, but allow us to work through them.

If we do that I think we will find ourselves in agreement more often than not.

And so I thank you—each and every one of you—for the sacrifices that you will make during this session and throughout the year.

And I look forward to working and collaborating with you.

Mahalo and aloha.

Hawaii unemployment rate drops to 4 percent, Shield Law back before Legislature, Ige DLNR developer nominee unpopular, Kaiser health workers plan strike, no preservation plan in Kunia development, Big Island incinerator plan snuffed, lawmaker seeks slot machines in airports, Maui telescopes not an economic engine, more news from all the Hawaiian islands

copyright 2015 All Hawaii News all rights reserved
Hawaii bartender © 2015 All Hawaii News
The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Hawaii last month dropped to 4 percent, from 4.7 percent in December 2013, the state Department of Labor & Industrial Relations said Friday. Pacific Business News.

Efforts to re-institute a law that once shielded news reporters and other journalists from revealing their anonymous sources and unpublished notes have been restarted in both the state House and Senate. Star-Advertiser.

House Majority Leader Scott Saiki has introduced a measure to bring back Shield Law protections for journalists in Hawaii. Civil Beat.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige on Friday nominated Carleton Ching, an executive with developer Castle & Cooke, to be the chairman of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. Pacific Business News.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige on Friday announced the nominations of Carleton Ching to serve as chairperson of the Department of Land and Natural Resources and Kekoa Kaluhiwa to the position of First Deputy. West Hawaii Today.

Only a few hours after Gov. David Ige had announced his nomination of Castle & Cooke lobbyist Carleton Ching to chair the Department of Land and Natural Resources, environmentalists were harshly criticizing the selection. Civil Beat.

Opinion: David Ige, one-term wonder? The new governor's selection of a development lobbyist to head the land-resource management branch of the state government is alienating many of his supporters. Hawaii Independent.

A group is pushing Hawaii to change a law that requires people to have gender reassignment surgery before they’re able to have their gender switched on a birth certificate. Associated Press.

Money to help doctors and health care workers repay their student loans is being proposed in a bill to lure physicians into working in areas with doctor shortages in Hawaii. Maui News.

Workers at Kaiser Permanente’s hospital and clinics in Hawaii plan to strike for six days beginning Feb. 2, the union representing them said Friday. United Here Local 5 said it’s been negotiating a contract for 2 ½ years. Associated Press.

Amid a worsening affordable housing crisis, the islands have thoroughly rejected one of the free market’s most effective solutions for creating affordable housing for middle-class and lower-middle class residents -- mobile homes. Civil Beat.

A Big Island lawmaker has introduced a bill to the state Legislature that would authorize slot machines at state airports for departing international passengers. West Hawaii Today.

Voters waiting in line and casting ballots on Election Day may become a thing of the past if bills introduced this week by Central Maui Sen. Gil Keith-Agaran and other senators become law. Maui News.

The University of Hawaii has hired Risa Dickson, the former associate provost at California State University-San Bernardino, as its vice president for academic affairs. Star-Advertiser.

New fees and permit requirements are now in effect for commercial recreational operations in state small boat harbors, facilities and near shore waters in the state of Hawaii. Any company or individual conducting commercial activity is required to contact the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation for a permit. Garden Island.

Opinion: How Progressive Is Hawaii’s Tax System? New report gives Hawaii poor marks for its tax system. The GET is bringing us down. Civil Beat.

Oahu

Kunia land developed without aid of historic safeguards. Agricultural acreage that contains many archaeological sites has buildings but no preservation plans. Star-Advertiser.

Thousands stand to lose their jobs at Hawai‘i’s military bases, if the Pentagon’s proposed cuts move forward. Schofield Barracks and Fort Shafter are among 30 military installations across the country where similar scenarios are playing out. Army officials are gathering public input at a series of listening sessions, including one tomorrow night in Honolulu. Hawaii Public Radio.

Last month state officials started a gated permit system that requires visitors to register their vehicles before gaining access to the 853-acre Ka‘ena Point State Park Reserve. Visitors entering on foot or by bicycle do not require a permit. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii

Citing uncertainty about oil prices and instability in the ownership of the state’s electric utility, Mayor Billy Kenoi on Friday yanked the plug on a proposed waste-to-energy incinerator. West Hawaii Today.

A program that allows neighbors of Puna Geothermal Venture to sell their homes to Hawaii County is on hold, a move that leaves 30 applications in limbo. The Planning Department, which administers the geothermal relocation program, placed a moratorium on new purchases and auctions of purchased properties in response to uncertainties surrounding the June 27 lava flow, said Joaquin Gamiao, planning administrative officer. Tribune-Herald.

Maui

A recent University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization study found that Maui County telescopes, research and astronomy programs accounted for only 3 percent of the total economic impact of astronomy in the state in 2012. Maui News.

An asteroid warning system - which includes a telescope atop Haleakala - aimed at preventing devastating destruction and loss of life around the world is expected to be completed by the end of the year. Maui News.

Kauai

County of Kauai officials said they have to tighten their belts if they want to find the money to pay for increased costs in the upcoming budget. Department heads are being tasked with finding a collective $8.2 million in cuts or reductions as they prepare for the fiscal year 2016 financial plan. Garden Island.

The county isn’t expecting an increase in revenue from the state in transient accommodations taxes that each county receives. So one proposal Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. and three other county mayors are pitching to help balance their budgets is to temporarily enact an up to 1 percent surcharge on top of the state’s 4 percent general excise tax for counties to use. Garden Island.

Humans colonizing the Hawaiian Islands destroyed bird habitats and introduced many alien species resulting in several native forest bird species going extinct, and those which remain live only in the most pristine mountain areas. Garden Island.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Former Gov. Lingle takes job with Illinois governor, military in Hawaii: love it or lose it, marijuana decriminalization on legislative agenda, doc shortage worsens, broadband lagging, breathing life into Coco Palms, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

copyright 2015 All Hawaii News all rights reserved
Former Gov. Linda Lingle in 2012 campaign © 2015 All Hawaii News
n a move that could signal the end of her political career in Hawaii, former Gov. Linda Lingle on Thursday was tapped by the new Republican governor of Illinois to serve as a senior adviser working to help turn around that state's sinking finances. Star-Advertiser.

Former Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle is headed for Illinois to serve as the chief operating officer for Gov. Bruce Rauner. Civil Beat.

Legislative leaders from the Hawaii House of Representatives say they plan to focus on fixing infrastructure, encouraging business and increasing participation in government in the new legislative session. Associated Press.

House Democrats held a news conference Thursday afternoon at the Capitol to announce the majority caucus legislative package but offered little in the way of details about any of the priorities they plan to focus on this session, which convened Wednesday. Civil Beat.

Lawmakers in Hawaii are beginning to introduce a series of bills that aim to make marijuana more freely available in the state. A bill to decriminalize marijuana is currently being drafted, said Sen. Will Espero, chairman of the Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs Committee. That bill would reduce punishment for using marijuana to a civil violation instead of a felony, he said. Associated Press.

Genetically Modified or Engineered crops will be a hot topic at the Legislature this session. And lawmakers could learn from a Hawai’i State Bar Association forum that looked at the issue from a purely legal standpoint. Hawaii Public Radio.

Hawaii’s doctor shortage is getting worse, and it’s getting especially difficult to find a physician on neighboring islands. Associated Press.

Feverish and aching patients continue to inundate Hawaii's overstressed health care system during a flu season that has no end in sight. Star-Advertiser.

One boat sank, several beaches around the state were closed, and state facilities on Hawaii island sustained minor damage from high surf that is expected to stick around statewide until 6 p.m. Saturday. Star-Advertiser.

Opinion: The Army in Hawaii: Fight to Save It, Prepare to Lose It. Business leaders are right to pull out all the stops to preserve the Army's Hawaii presence at its current level, but we also need to start thinking about what comes next if major cuts are made. Civil Beat.

Opinion: A case for army downsizing in Hawaii. Why the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii and our Congressional delegates have it wrong. Hawaii Independent.

Broadband internet access is both a luxury for modern entertainment and a necessity for business. But Hawaii is falling behind when it comes to fast connections. Hawaii Public Radio.

The University of Hawaii is studying the possibility of selling off investments in companies that produce fossil fuels. The university's Board of Regents on Thursday appointed a task group to examine the feasibility and desirability of such a move. Associated Press.

On Thursday, Yelp released its second annual list of Top 100 Places to Eat in the U.S., and eight Hawaii eateries have made the cut. KHON2.

Oahu

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s desire to protect $210 million in federal bus funding means the city’s $6 billion rail project needs even more money than officials had recently announced. Civil Beat.

Honolulu police and prosecutors have gotten tough on suspected pimps — more than 45 times tougher than three years ago. Civil Beat.

Two high-profile employees at the Hawaii Theatre Center will lose their jobs Jan. 31 as part of a plan to reduce costs that have left the Chinatown venue in the red for the past five years. Star-Advertiser.

Paying around $3 a gallon for gas thrills most Honolulu drivers, but it's less of a joy when you learn the average cost should be $2.49 if our prices had dropped as much as they did on the mainland in the last year. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii

The Hawaii County Council has entered a new era of accessibility to the public — starting today, council and committee meetings will be streamed live on the county’s website. West Hawaii Today.

A settlement is in the works between Hawaii County and the state Department of Health, which last year fined the county more than $350,000 for violations at two landfills. West Hawaii Today.

Hawaii Island’s doctor shortage grew by 17 percent in the last year. The need for physicians in 2014 was estimated at 554, but only 327 were practicing on the island, according to the latest figures from the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine’s Area Health Education Center. That puts the island’s shortage at 41 percent of its need, far ahead of the statewide shortage of 24 percent. Tribune-Herald.

More than a dozen West Hawaii beaches were closed Thursday because of warning-level surf aloha west-facing shores of the Big Island. West Hawaii Today.

Maui

The Maui Mayor's Office of Economic Development issued over $4.64 million in grant funds to local organizations over the last six months. Pacific Business News.

Homeless shelters have effectively become affordable housing on Maui, according to governmental and nonprofit agencies speaking at a panel discussion Wednesday night at the Maui Economic Opportunity Conference Room. Maui News.

After moving its monthly meeting Wednesday to the University of Hawaii Maui College, the Maui Police Commission had its biggest public turnout in more than a year. Maui News.

If Maui County residents think it's tough to get a doctor appointment now, then just wait - a statewide physician's shortage will worsen as nearly a third of Hawaii's practicing doctors have reached retirement age, according to a University of Hawaii study submitted to state lawmakers this week. Maui News.

Kauai

As a place that once served as the home of Kauai’s last reigning queen, Deborah Kapule Kekaiha‘akulou, and the backdrop for the 1961 film “Blue Hawaii” starring Elvis Presley, there is no dearth of historical features at Coco Palms Resort. Preserving that history while paving the way for a new Coco Palms Resort, however, is a question that several state and county agencies are still wrestling with. Garden Island.

A circuit court judge Tuesday ruled in favor of the County of Kauai and the Planning Commission in response to the county’s lawsuit against a Hanalei resident’s unpermitted boatyard operation. Garden Island.

A mariner’s union said a lawsuit filed against a tug operator for negligence is full of errors. Garden Island.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Hawaii Legislature convenes session with tight budget, Honolulu rail transit tax hike mulled, protestors seek GMO ban, pesticide limits, Native Hawaiian rights, Maui council wants exemption from Sunshine Law, Big Island mayor kills incinerator foe's contract, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

photo courtesy of Robert Harris
Hawaii House opening session, courtesy Robert D. Harris
The Hawaii Legislature has begun its 2015 session with plans to tackle a tight budget and issues including providing affordable housing and improving patients’ access to medical marijuana. The Senate and House opened their sessions on Wednesday morning. Associated Press.

After all the hoopla, the fanfare, the public protests outside and political speeches inside the Capitol as the 2015 legislative session opened Wednesday morning, people retreated to their offices and homes and went on with their day. Except for a dozen lawmakers and a few of the state’s top economists and financial planners. They went to the Capitol’s basement auditorium to talk about the realities that the legislators face. Civil Beat.

Hawaii state legislators convened their 2015 session Wednesday with a modest agenda that might create more public accountability — both for themselves and for Oahu's pricy rail transit project. Star-Advertiser.

The State Legislature officially opened its 2015 session today. Common themes of restoring public confidence in government and no new taxes were emphasized in both chambers. Hawaii Public Radio.

The 2015 legislative session began with pomp, circumstance, and talks of a potential tax increase. Hawaii News Now.

Opening day fanfare and speeches set the tone of the legislative session It's been almost a decade since the rail tax issue spilled onto the floor of both houses. KITV4.

The state House and Senate celebrated the opening day of the 28th Hawaii State Legislature with fanfare Wednesday. KHON2.

Senate President Donna Mercado Kim’s 2015 Opening Day Speech

House Speaker Souki's Opening Day speech

Unsettling Moment During Senator Slom’s Minority Speech.

Opening Day Remarks for the 2015 Legislative Session by the House Minority Leader.

State Budget Director Wesley Machida warned lawmakers Wednesday the state budget could drop into a deficit if any new expenses crop up or revenues decline. Star-Advertiser.

On the first day of Hawaii's legislative session, lawmakers heard about a flurry of financial requests pouring into Gov. David Ige's office. State finance director Wes Machida said Wednesday at a finance committee hearing that requests for more than 1,000 new state government positions were made since Ige took office on Dec. 1. Associated Press.

Hawaii Senate President Donna Mercado Kim called for eliminating the state Land Use Commission during her remarks on the opening day of the 2015 legislative session. Civil Beat.

State senators and representatives convened the 2015 legislative session in their respective chambers Wednesday morning as groups advocating for Native Hawaiian rights and restrictions against genetically modified organisms protested in the Capitol rotunda outside. Civil Beat.

A potentially powerful coalition of groups demonstrated at the State Capitol Wednesday on opening day of the Legislature, hoping to pressure lawmakers to pass a law controlling use of pesticides near schools. Hawaii News Now.

Demonstrators and spectators made their voices heard at the state Capitol rotunda before the start of the legislative session on Wednesday. Star-Advertiser.

Carl Bonham, executive director of the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization, shared a positive outlook for Hawaii's economy this year Tuesday during a luncheon in Honolulu hosted by the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii. Pacific Business News.

Hawaii has the fourth-highest number of millionaires per-capita in the U.S., according to a new study. Star-Advertiser.

Oahu


An unusual form of affordable housing on state land in Kakaako is one big step closer to getting built after a state agency approved the 84-unit rental project with lofts for artists Wednesday. Star-Advertiser.

After KITV4 exposed the fact that the projected shortfall for the city’s $5.3 billion rail project is actually as much as $910 million, Mayor Kirk Caldwell said rail planners may have missed an opportunity to better explain the issue to the public.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony will celebrate the completion of the first part of a project to modernize the Honolulu federal building and U.S District Courthouse. Gov. David Ige is among the officials who are expected to attend Thursday’s ceremony. Associated Press.

Katherine Kealoha said in state court Wednesday that the $23,976 she spent from a joint bank account she shared with her grandmother on the January 2010 inauguration breakfast for her husband, Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha, was money that was owed to her. She said her husband never asked her how much the breakfast cost because she handles all of the family's finances. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii

A local nonprofit whose director opposes Mayor Billy Kenoi’s plans for a waste-to-energy incinerator has lost its longstanding contract to educate the community about recycling. West Hawaii Today.

Cultural practitioners, environmentalists deliver Mauna Kea demands to Governor No further build-up on Mauna Kea, refusal to accept new UH lease top the list. Hawaii Independent.

As the most recent lava flow from the Kilauea Volcano showed no advancement on Wednesday, two Hawaii island legislators were preparing to propose several bills that they hope will reduce the ill effects of the so-called June 27 lava flow. Star-Advertiser.

Longs Drugs plans to reopen its Pahoa store next week, making it the first major retailer to return since the June 27 lava flow prompted several to evacuate last month. Tribune-Herald.

“They will never forget” France honors Big Island nisei soldiers West Hawaii Today.

Maui

Pot legalization, medical measures on the horizon. Maui News.

The state Department of Health has scheduled a public hearing from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Feb. 3 in Wailuku on proposed administrative rules for the medical use of marijuana. Maui News.

Opinon: Maui County Council Celebrates Opening Of 28th Hawaii Legislature With New Bill Attacking Sunshine Law. MauiTime.

Doug McLeod, former energy commissioner for Maui County, and his wife, Kandi, have formed an energy consulting services firm called DKK Energy Services LLC. Pacific Business News.

Kauai

A circuit court judge Tuesday ruled in favor of the County of Kauai and the Planning Commission in response to the county’s lawsuit against a Hanalei resident’s unpermitted boatyard operation. Garden Island.

Emergency responders make up less than half of a percent of the Kauai population.  More are needed. Garden Island.