Friday, October 25, 2013

Hawaii economy down, but not out; Army gets permission for depleted uranium; Maui movie to employ hundreds; students favor gay marriage rights; Abercrombie opens immigration center, new species found in Kilauea Caldera; more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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Tighter federal spending, a weaker yen and higher hotel room rates are combining to take a bite out of Hawaii's economic recovery this year, says a team of University of Hawaii economists. In a report released today, the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization cut its forecasts for growth in both 2013 visitor arrivals and gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the state's economic activity. Star-Advertiser.

The recent federal government shutdown didn’t shut down Hawaii’s economy, and the future looks particularly bright for the neighbor islands, where job growth is expected to outpace that of Oahu over the rest of the decade. That’s according to reports released this week by the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization and the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. West Hawaii Today.

With the launch of the Obamacare health care exchange Hawaii Health Connector, expect to see more state and  federal dollars flowing to Hawaii’s needy. Hawaii’s Legislature appropriated $2.75 billion for fiscal year 2013 and $2.83 billion for FY 2014 — or about 20 percent of the state general fund budget — for “social services” operating expenses. Hawaii Reporter.

Students aligned with Hawaii United for Marriage have collected more than 400 signatures on a petition favoring marriage equality as the state Legislature convenes in special session next week to consider a gay marriage bill. Jeremy Divinagracia, a UH sophomore, said at a news conference Thursday at the UH Campus Center that a vote against equality would be "a terrible message" for a state that prides itself on diversity and the aloha spirit. Star-Advertiser.

A growing number of University of Hawaii at Manoa students are signing a petition urging lawmakers to pass a same-sex marriage bill that’s up for debate in next week’s special session. As of of Thursday afternoon, more than 400 students have signed on. The petition drive, students said, was inspired by recent student government debates on campus about the pros and cons of same-sex marriage. Civil Beat.

Two local advocacy groups are sponsoring Hawaii legislation next session that would ban a type of mental-health counseling that aims to change the sexuality of children who identify as gay, bisexual or transgender. "Conversion therapy," as it’s known, is typically nonconsensual counseling imposed on children by parents or other adult figures and is widely seen as ineffective and intolerant. It’s already banned in California and New Jersey. Civil Beat.

With four legislators on hand to field questions at the Lihue Business Association, it took just a few minutes for the conversation to get to what was on many minds: the upcoming special session on the marriage equality bill. Garden Island.

In an increasingly crowded special session, Abercrombie's nomination for Director of the Office of Environmental Quality Control may be cause for concern. The agenda for next week’s special session is becoming increasingly crowded. On Tuesday the governor asked legislators to add three additional measures to the session agenda. Along with these measures, 31 additional gubernatorial nominations will be heard in the senate on Tuesday, October 29th beginning at 10am. Hawaii Independent.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a license for the possession of depleted uranium at the Army’s Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island and Schofield Barracks on Oahu. The license, granted Wednesday, is in response to the revelation about six years ago that spotting rounds used as part of the Davy Crockett program were fired at both locations in the 1960s. Tribune-Herald.

Oahu

Ripple effects from rule changes that Hawaiian Electric Co. abruptly implemented last month are leaving solar customers especially vulnerable to unscrupulous salespeople who are desperate to close deals amid a tightening market. HECO put new controls on customers who want to hook up solar systems to protect the reliability of the utility's electric grid. The new policies have confused solar companies, left hundreds of customers who were in the middle of the installation process in limbo and cut deeply into solar sales at what is normally the busiest time of year. Civil Beat.

One of the companies responsible for disposing of sludge dredged from the Hawaii Kai Marina is apparently again looking at dumping the material on the site of a controversial and long-stalled cemetery in the back of nearby Kamilo Nui Valley. The marina's dredging project angered the public when sludge from there was spilled on the H-1 freeway Aug. 31 and was found on a private lot in Waianae in violation of city and possibly state and federal permits or regulations. Star-Advertiser.

Major decisions about new skyrises in Honolulu loom, but Hawaii’s state development agency may have to make them at a time when it is understaffed in a way that critics say favors developers. The Hawaii Community Development Authority has been missing two members of its Kakaako board since May, prompting lawmakers to urge Gov. Neil Abercrombie to fill the seats in time for the Legislature’s special session next week. Civil Beat.

It isn't exactly the majestic image often thought of with whales. There is believed to be a 30 to 40 foot dead sperm whale floating off the coast of Windward Oahu. It appears to have been dead for a while. Hawaii News Now.

The Marine Corps is warning windward Oahu residents to expect more aircraft noise for a short period. The Marines say people can expect to see multiple helicopters conducting maintenance and readiness flights from 10:15 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Friday. Residents may also hear more noise. Associated Press.

Six years ago, the city removed the playground equipment at Waimanalo Beach Park because of safety concerns. But the new equipment that's there is raising those same concerns. KHON2.

Hawaii

Governor on hand as state’s first immigration resource center opens. Tribune-Herald.

The Hawaii Judiciary said Thursday that it has selected a 10-acre parcel of land in North Kona owned by the Queen Liliuokalani Trust for the site of the new $9 million Kona Judiciary Complex. Pacific Business News.

Puna Community Medical Center is moving forward with plans to construct a comprehensive medical center to help meet the needs of the increasing population in the Puna District, according to a draft Environmental Assessment released Wednesday by the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. West Hawaii Today.

Kona home, condo and land sales will top last year’s numbers easily, even as sales slowed in September, a West Hawaii real estate agent says. West Hawaii Today.

A new species has been found – so far in only one cave in Kilauea Caldera on Hawaii Island – and scientists at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa say it has not been found anywhere else in the world. “We cultivated a new cyanobacterium from an almost 100-year-old lava cave in volcanically active Kilauea Caldera,” said Associate Professor Stuart Donachie in the Department of Microbiology at the College of Natural Sciences. Big Island Video News.

Maui

By early next year, Maui Film Studios will be home to the next "Lord of the Rings"-style movie, with hundreds of positions from extras to makeup artists open to Maui County residents, studio officials said. Maui News.

Maui County will enjoy a 15.1 percent growth in jobs during the current decade, with annual openings of more than 3,000 jobs during the period, according to projections in a state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations report released Wednesday. Maui News.

The neighbor islands are forecast to lead job growth in the state through 2020, according to new data released by the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. Maui County is forecast to have the second fastest growth in the state, with a projected 15.1% increase in industry growth over the 10 year period from 2010-2020. Maui Now.

Plans for resurfacing Kahului Airport's main runway would lead to late-night jet takeoffs from the airport's secondary runway and cause "serious and substantial" noise impacts on Spreckelsville residents, according to their attorney. Maui News.

A team from the University of Hawaii just launched a new study to track the movement of tiger sharks in Maui waters. Hawaii News Now.

Kauai

The state is projecting big things for the County of Kauai. Specifically, it thinks The Garden Isle will outpace neighboring islands when it comes to industry and occupational growth by 2020. The Hawaii State Department of Labor and Industrial Relations said in a report Wednesday that Kauai’s forecasted expansion rate of 15.4 percent in both sectors will be tops in the state. Garden Island.

Repealing an ordinance that expedites the permit process to rebuild structures destroyed by Hurricane Iniki will put an end to restoration plans for the Coco Palms Resort, the iconic Kauai hotel where Elvis Presley filmed "Blue Hawaii," argues Bob Jasper, who holds guided tours at the property. The Kauai County Council held a public hearing Wednesday on Bill 2502, which would repeal the so-called "Iniki Ordinance," which offers an expedited permit process to rebuild structures and buildings destroyed by the Category 4 storm that devastated the Garden Isle on Sept. 11, 1992. Star-Advertiser.

Library opens new chapter. $1.9M renovation unveiled. Garden Island.