Friday, August 23, 2013

Hawaii police well-paid, no raise for election chief, Hawaii watching Fukushima, Honolulu mayor to slash $20M, Hagel addresses troups, drones for Maui agriculture, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

police pay n Hawaii
Honolulu police officers courtesy photo
Hawaii police officers are the highest-paid public employees in the state, higher even than college professors, according to a West Hawaii Today analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data released Thursday.

See the U.S. Census Annual Survey of Public Employment & Payroll here.

Hawaii’s four counties did little to fight against the state’s police union over a new six-year contract that will cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars over the next four years. An arbitrator’s decision reviewed by Civil Beat on Thursday shows that when county officials had the opportunity to push back against the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers' demands for more pay and other concessions, they merely deferred to the union or provided incomplete information that didn't withstand the arbitrator's scrutiny.

The man at the center of 2012′s general election disaster will not get a $36,000 pay hike. The Hawaii Salary Commission, an independent appointed board that recently OK’d pay hikes for the state’s executive, judicial and legislative branches, decided Wednesday against increasing Chief  Election Officer Scott Nago‘s salary to $116,000 a year. He earns $80,000. Hawaii Reporter.

Deep beneath Fukushima's crippled nuclear power station, a massive underground reservoir of contaminated water that began spilling from the plant's reactors after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami has been creeping slowly toward the Pacific. Now, 2 1/2 years later, experts fear it is about to reach the ocean and greatly worsen what is fast becoming a new crisis at Fukushima: the inability to contain vast quantities of radioactive water. Associated Press.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke to about 200 Marines and sailors on the helicopter flight line at Kaneohe Bay at the start of a four-nation trip to Southeast Asia. Star-Advertiser.

One month after the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples were entitled to federal benefits, Hawaii democrats still haven't decided whether or not to call a special session of legislature.  Hawaii Independent.

State Rep. Denny Coffman, who had urged House leaders against quickly moving a gay marriage bill in special session, said Thursday that he now favors a special session. Star-Advertiser.

Obama's plan to cut college costs likely to benefit Hawaii. Hawaii News Now.

The University of Hawaii Foundation raised $66.3 million during the 2012-13 fiscal year, which ended June 30, down slightly from last year's fundraising totals. The nonprofit organization raises money from the private sector to benefit the university's 10 campuses. Star-Advertiser.

University of Hawaii students could see tuition rise by as much as 35 percent in the next five years. And that’s after a nearly 50 percent rise over the past five. KHON2.

The University of Hawaii Board of Regents approved three executive appointments at its monthly meeting Thursday. Star-Advertiser.

Growth in Hawaii’s tourism industry, which set records in 2012, is expected to continue this year and into 2014 at a much slower pace, and some in the industry might have to make price adjustments to stay on track. The Hawaii Tourism Authority forecast Thursday that the industry will bring 8.75 million visitors to Hawaii in 2014, a 3.2 percent increase over the 2013 arrivals goal. Star-Advertiser.

The Hawai’i Tourism Authority opened its annual conference today, following a year of record growth.   But, as HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports, the conference theme --“Defining the Next Chapter”--is an attempt to position the industry to withstand the next downturn in tourism. Hawaii Public Radio.

Hawaii hotels had a strong week last week, with average daily room rates increasing 14 percent across the major islands, and occupancy increasing on all but the Big Island, according to the latest report from Hospitality Advisors LLC and Smith Travel Research. Pacific Business News.

Hawaii struggles with being able to feed itself. Our island chain imports more than 80 percent of the food consumed by local residents, in part because the cost of producing our own food is so high people can't afford to buy it. Civil Beat.

Federal agents have confiscated and destroyed a fungus harmful to plants that was found on brooms imported from the Philippines. While examining a cargo container in Honolulu on Aug. 9, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists discovered the fungus on a handicraft made of native palm parts. The fungus was in a shipment of “native brooms” made from Cocos nucifera, a palm species. Star-Advertiser.

Sales of new autos in Hawaii rose 13.4 percent during the first half of the year from the year-ago period but that pace is expected to slow during the final six months of 2013. Star-Advertiser.

State roundup for August 23. Associated Press.

Oahu

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell is taking a proactive approach to an expected $26 million budget shortcoming for fiscal year 2014.  He has announced $20 million in cuts to all of his departments. Hawaii News Now.

HFD delays deployment of ladder company because of budget restriction. KITV.

A Circuit Court jury will return Monday to resume deliberations in State Department special agent Christopher Deedy’s murder case after spending four full days this week trying to reach a verdict. Circuit Judge Karen Ahn gave no reason as to why the panel would not meet today. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii

The return of tourists is driving economic improvements across Hawaii Island, an economist told West Hawaii business owners and leaders Thursday afternoon. “The years of bouncing along the bottom seem to be over,” Jack Suyderhoud said during the 39th annual First Hawaiian Bank economic outlook forum at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel. West Hawaii Today.

Growth in the state's visitor industry is spreading to the economy on Hawaii island, one of the last areas in the state to recover from the recent recession, a top Hawaii economist said Thursday. "Thanks to the statewide tourism boom, Hawaii island's economic outlook is better than it has been in the last five years," economist Jack Suyderhoud said at the 39th annual First Hawaiian Bank Hawai‘i County Business Outlook Forum. Star-Advertiser.

A Big Island charter school that educates students in the Hawaiian language claims the state Department of Education’s recently released rankings unfairly imply the school is failing. Associated Press.

From the muck, healthy anchialine pool habitats emerge. West Hawaii Today.

Maui

Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company held a test run of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or UAV, that it plans to use to improve irrigation practices at the company’s sugar cane fields. Maui Now.

A miniature helicopter with high-tech cameras will soon be flying over certain sugar cane fields on Maui to detect problems with irrigation, monitor crop health and conduct scientific research. Maui News.

Barriers to bridge gap until work begins. Maui News.

Less than a year after opening their doors, Old Wailuku Grill on Market Street has closed. Maui Now.

Kauai

A proposal to add more changes to the county’s real property tax system — which has been significantly revamped in the last three years — cleared the Kauai County Council’s Finance Committee Wednesday, though with a few tweaks. Among other things, the bill eliminates a property tax cap. Garden Island.

Parking changes to begin in Poipu. Garden Island.

Molokai
A new apartment complex proposed for Manila Camp is in its initial planning stages and seeks to fulfill a need for affordable housing in central Molokai. The Chopra Hale apartments would consist of 16 units and occupy 1.04 acres located at 190 Makaena Place, according to project manager Luigi Manera. Molokai Dispatch.

Last week, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz made a visit to Molokai and talked story with business owners, farmers, advocates and residents. Molokai Dispatch.