Monday, April 15, 2013

Giant telescope approved for Mauna Kea, IRs targets Maui for tax cheats, Inouye legacy funds candidates, small Hawaii farms can't catch a break, Abercrombie kicks off campaign on fiscal record, more news from all the Hawaiian islands

Mauna Kea
Telescopes atop Mauna Kea courtesy photo
The Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources on Friday granted the University of Hawaii at Hilo a conservation district use permit for the $1.3 billion Thirty Meter Telescope, saying the university can add what will be one of the world's largest telescopes to the observatories on the summit of Mauna Kea. Pacific Business News.

Construction on the $1.3 billion Thirty Meter Telescope could begin atop Mauna Kea within a year, project managers said this weekend, following Friday’s approval of a permit for the plans by the state Board of Land and Natural Resources. Tribune-Herald.

The state's recent approval to build the world's largest telescope atop Mauna Kea has thrilled astronomers eager to explore the edges of the universe. But it also has disappointed environmentalists and Native Hawaiians. Hawaii News Now.

A plan by California and Canadian universities to build the world’s largest telescope at the summit of Hawaii’s Mauna Kea volcano won approval from the state Board of Land and Natural Resources on Friday. Associated Press.

Several of Hawaii's biggest companies and landowners have qualified to claim tax credits and other benefits for preserving agricultural land in perpetuity. But a hui of small farmers couldn't convince a state commission earlier this month that they deserve the same. Star-Advertiser.

Several of Hawaii's biggest companies and landowners have qualified to claim tax credits and other benefits for preserving agricultural land in perpetuity. But a hui of small farmers couldn't convince a state commission earlier this month that they deserve the same. Star-Advertiser.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie, outlining themes for his re-election campaign next year, said today that the “hard choices” he has made since taking office have helped make Hawaii’s state government among the most financially stable in the nation. Star-Advertiser.

Something odd is going on in the Abercrombie administration. Officials actually seem to be scrambling to release public records in a timely fashion. Civil Beat.

On the first day of his last campaign, Neil Abercrombie recalled the last day of his first campaign. Civil Beat.

The late Sen. Dan Inouye's political legacy continues to play out as his leadership political action committee begins helping out candidates that the senator favored when he was alive. According to the latest campaign finance filings, Rep. Colleen Hanabusa and Sen. Mazie Hirono each received $10,000 from DANPAC. Inouye's PAC had roughly $50,000 in unspent funds when he died. Inouye's main campaign account had more than a quarter-million dollars.  Civil Beat.

Hawaii Senate and House lawmakers plan to spend the beginning of this week in negotiations over roughly $24 billion in proposed state spending for the next two fiscal years. Associated Press.

Local Korean civic groups and supporters rallied Saturday at the state Capitol to denounce the military actions and nuclear threats by North Korea, particularly by its young dictator, Kim Jong Un, and to express frustration, anger and shame. About 200 gathered to hear speakers, march and chant. Star-Advertiser.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii claims the state Department of Public Safety is illegally withholding public records that attorneys representing families in wrongful prison death lawsuits have already paid thousands of dollars to receive. Associated Press.

A law firm has paid the Hawaii Department of Public Safety $5,300 for public records, but state officials have yet to produce a single document, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday by the ACLU of Hawaii. Civil Beat.

A resolution in the Hawaii House of Representatives is asking for federal labeling of genetically modified food. Associated Press.

The state tax credit is a major incentive to install solar photovoltaic systems, and eliminating or reducing them would drive Hawaii homeowners away from using the sun to power their homes. At least that is what a recent survey by the Blue Planet Foundation suggests. Maui News.

A string of drownings across all Hawaii islands have put a new focus on ocean safety, especially targeted at tourists. Hawaii Public Radio.

State roundup for April 15. Associated Press.

Oahu

Key members of the City Council are taking steps to tighten the rules for filling vacant job positions so that city agencies cannot spend the money on other purposes. Too much is being diverted to pay for such things as mileage expenses and cashing out unused vacation pay for retiring employees, says Councilman Ikaika Anderson. Star-Advertiser.

A lag in processing tax returns led to Honolulu's rail project receiving $33 million less than it anticipated in the first half of this fiscal year — even though state GET collections are up this year, state Department of Taxation officials say. Star-Advertiser.

On Thursday, the 10-member HART board gave Dan Grabauskas a $35,000 bonus as part of his first annual performance review, boosting his overall pay for the year from $245,000 to $280,000. He also gets $42,000 for housing and transportation. Civil Beat.

One of the most controversial decisions by the city’s rail authority was to award a contract to build the elevated steel on steel rail trains to the financially troubled Italian company Ansaldo. The city’s HART CEO Dan Grabauskas maintained in a University of Hawaii student forum this week that the company was the best choice to design, build, operate and maintain Oahu’s $5.2 billion system. Hawaii Reporter.

The Diamond Head State Monument Foundation is holding a public meeting on Wednesday to discuss the proposed nomination of scenic roadways encircling Diamond Head as a designated "Hawaii Scenic Byway." Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii

Hawaii County Council members weighed the ideas of seeking a general excise tax increase, a fuel tax increase or raising bus fares to help fund the county’s Mass Transit Agency. West Hawaii Today.

Hawaii County Councilwoman Margaret Wille had heard enough. Before noon on Friday, the third straight day of budget talks, the Kohala representative had grown tired of the cadre of department heads highlighting needs not met in the proposed budget, and decided it was time to speak her mind. Tribune-Herald.

The makers of Mehana and Hawaii Nui beer filed for bankruptcy this week and are seeking new ownership as part of a reorganizing plan to restructure its debts.  Big Island Now.

After years of delay, a project to improve the eastern portion of Kawaihae Small Boat Harbor is moving forward. West Hawaii Today.

Maui

The communities in Hawaii where you would most likely find tax cheats and audits are Lahaina and Kahului on Maui, according to a study by the National Taxpayer Advocate. Associated Press.

In Maui County, approximately 4,000 homeowners have installed solar PV systems, according to county officials. Only three out of 10 existing PV owners said they still would have switched to solar if there had been no tax credits.  Maui News.

A building in the Kenolio Recreational Complex in Kihei that was damaged by fire more than two years ago is expected to be repaired early next year, according to Department of Parks and Recreation Deputy Director Brianne Savage. Maui News.

Hawaii's Backyard: Healing energy surrounds clients at Maui retreat. Star-Advertiser.

Kauai

Gov. Neil Abercrombie spent Friday on island, visiting school students and lending his support to the Kaua‘i Philippines Cultural Center and the Kaua‘i Raceway Park in the form of financial aid. Garden Island.

Donna Schultze has called Kaua‘i home for 41 years, so when she heard about a proposal that includes drilling a high-elevation well through Wai‘ale‘ale, she knew one thing: She didn’t like it. Garden Island.