Friday, August 16, 2013

Obama library to go to Chicago but Hawaii still hopeful, federal judges hear Honolulu rail case, group sues for past-due church fees, Deedy jury to come back Monday, Kaui to fix historic swinging bridge, Hokulia development to reorganize, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

Obama Hawaii early years
Baby Obama on Hawaii beach courtesy photo
The Hawaii Tourism Authority board of directors was told Thursday that a decision has been made to locate President Barack Obama’s presidential library in Chicago, but Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz said Obama’s hometown of Honolulu is still “very much” in the running to host a presidential library or center. Pacific Business News.

There's still plenty of momentum in Hawaii's visitor industry, just not as much as Hawaii Tourism Authority officials originally thought. HTA, which manages the state government's tourism budget and sets tourism policy, had always expected 2014 would be weaker than the so-far record-setting 2013, and on Thursday the HTA downgraded its expectations further after hearing that the Japa­nese market this year is not performing as strongly as was once anticipated. Star-Advertiser.

Five churches have underpaid the state Department of Education for the use of public school facilities by more than $5.6 million over the past six years, according to a lawsuit unsealed this week in state court. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Mitch Kahle, founder of Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of Church and State, and public advocate Holly Huber. They filed their lawsuit under seal in March to give the state the opportunity to join in. When the state attorney general declined, a state judge ordered the lawsuit unsealed. Star-Advertiser.

Churches are massively shortchanging Hawaii’s public schools on rent and other costs for weekend-use of school facilities, according to a whistleblower lawsuit that was unsealed by the Circuit Court late Wednesday. Civil Beat.

Hawaii Medical Service Association lost $2.3 million in the second quarter, reversing a $9.4 million profit in the year-earlier period. The state's largest health insurer spent more on medical benefits and administrative expenses for its nearly 720,000 members than it collected in premium revenue in the quarter that ended June 30. The health plan filed its quarterly financial statements Thursday with the state Insurance Division. Star-Advertiser.

An appeal filed in the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of a group challenging the state's 2012 reapportionment and redistricting plan as unconstitutional could be decided by the end of the year, an attorney for the plaintiffs says. Star-Advertiser.

The state prison system is increasing requirements for people applying to become corrections officers and already weeded out some sub-standard applicants during its first more difficult application test earlier this month. Hawaii News Now.

State roundup for August 16. Associated Press.

Oahu

Federal judges weighing the appeal against Honolulu's rail project spent most of a pivotal court hearing Thursday questioning whether they even have jurisdiction to make a final ruling on the matter. The judges' heavy focus during oral arguments on their own role in the case — rather than the merits of the lawsuit itself — could signal more challenges ahead for opponents of the $5.26 billion elevated-train proj­ect, attorneys watching the court battle say. Star-Advertiser.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco heard oral arguments from both sides in the federal rail transit lawsuit today. The proceeding was transmitted via live video feed to the Honolulu Federal Courthouse. A Circuit Court jury will return Monday for deliberations in State Department special agent Christopher Deedy's murder trial after the prosecution and defense urged the jurors Thursday to consider the type of law enforcement officer they want in the community. Hawaii Public Radio.

In a nearly hour-long hearing that was streamed live to the U.S. District Courthouse in Honolulu, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco heard arguments Thursday on whether the city adequately studied alternatives to a $5.3 billion heavy rail system. KITV

Opponents and supporters of the rail project made their way out of federal court, where they watched by television the hearing by a three-judge panel in San Francisco. KHON2.

Should a federal agent out for a night on the town with an old college buddy have waded into the middle of a brewing situation between customers at a Waikiki McDonald’s? Once he did, was he obligated as a law enforcement officer to follow through? Civil Beat.

Special-education students who exceed the state's cutoff age for services can continue to receive free public education while challenging that age limit, a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled Wednesday. The opinion stems from a lawsuit filed against the state Department of Education by a special-education student whose state-funded tuition at a private school in Hono­lulu was stopped in 2011 when he turned 20. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii

The creditor and debtors of the bankrupt Hokulia luxury development have come up with a reorganization plan they say will revive the long-stalled development and ensure the county gets its $20 million to complete the Mamalahoa bypass. West Hawaii Today.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie doesn’t yet have the official version of the proposed West Hawaii Fishery Management rules package, Department of Land and Natural Resources officials said Thursday evening. West Hawaii Today.

The Army is moving forward with plans for a $29 million Infantry Platoon Battle Course at Pohakuloa Training Area on Hawaii island, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz said Thursday. Star-Advertiser.

When other companies were struggling during the recent economic downturn, at least one West Hawaii business saw steady growth. West Hawaii Today.

Maui

After a meeting that spanned two days, most of which was conducted behind closed doors in executive session, Maui County Council's Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee advanced to the full council two proposals regarding how the committee will proceed with its investigation into the possible misuse of public funds to demolish the Old Wailuku Post Office. Maui News.

US Senator Brian Schatz today announced the distribution of $800,000 in federal funds to the County of Maui Department of Transportation for its ADA compliant Bus Stop Shelter and Signage Program. Maui Now.

A minor special management area permit for the Rock & Brews restaurant project in Paia is being challenged in an appeal to the Maui Planning Commission. Maui News.

Kauai

The administration told the Kauai County Council Wednesday that the reconstruction of Kapaia Swinging Bridge will be 10 times cheaper than a $2 million estimate two years ago. County Engineer Larry Dill said the latest preliminary estimate to replace both towers is about $100,000. Garden Island.

The Kauai Planning Commission on Tuesday deferred for two months any action related to a request from Longs Drugs CVS to build a new store on a protected coconut grove in Waipouli. Garden Island.

Mary Pigao, a resident of the Isenberg Tract, urged people to visit the results of a feasibility study on the proposed adolescent treatment center Tuesday. Garden Island.

Kauai Island Utility Cooperative and Kauai County are planning to collaborate on energy-saving projects such as a solar photovoltaic system and battery storage on county buildings, as well as pilot programs on time-of-use rates and electric-vehicle initiatives in an effort to reduce the Garden Isle’s fossil fuel consumption and lower the cost of energy, KIUC and the county said Thursday. Pacific Business News.