Thursday, October 3, 2013

UH Manoa aims to be first smoke-free campus, Hawaii council advances anti-fracking bill, Chinese have insatiable appetite for Hawaii property, Kauai electric customers may be fined for old meters, public school enrollment up, big build boom scares Honolulu residents, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

copyright 2013 All Hawaii News
University of Hawaii at Manoa
The University of Hawaii's Manoa campus plans to toughen its anti-smoking policy starting Jan. 1 with a total ban on tobacco products and electronic cigarettes — a move that would make it the first tobacco-free college campus in the state. Star-Advertiser.

Concerns are mounting that Hawaii’s economy — so dependent of tourism and the military — could suffer setbacks if the standoff between President Barack Obama and House Republican leaders is not resolved promptly so that federal employees can get back to work, attractions can reopen and services return to the status quo. Star-Advertiser.

While Sen. Hirono Shuts Down Offices Completely, Rep. Gabbard Keeps Hawaii, DC Offices Open to Help Constituents. Hawaii’s elected Congressional officials are taking different approaches to managing their offices in Washington DC and Hawaii during the government shut down. Hawaii Reporter.

Enrollment at Hawaii’s public schools is up by 1.1 percent over last school year, an increase of about 2,000 students, according to figures released Tuesday by the Department of Education. A total of 185,273 students are enrolled in public schools for the 2013-14 year. That includes 9,797 students in 33 public charter schools — a 2.1 percent increase — and 173,658 students in 255 DOE schools, a 1 percent increase over last year. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii’s historically underpaid judges are receiving huge raises this year to bring their standard of living up to par with their mainland counterparts. Their relatively low pay has made it hard for the state to attract and retain talented attorneys to serve in the Judiciary, particularly at the general-jurisdiction level. Until the raises went into effect July 1, Hawaii trial judges ranked last in the nation in terms of salary when the cost of living was factored in, according to a comparison by the National Center for State Courts. Civil Beat.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association could soon join the ranks of the AFL-CIO, a powerful political labor federation that local union leaders say would strengthen the HSTA’s voice and help it to forge partnerships with other unions. This, they say, would ultimately improve Hawaii education. Civil Beat.

Professional and scientific government workers have reached a tentative agreement with the state on a new four-year contract that includes roughly 11 percent pay raises and step adjustments. The Hawaii Government Employees Association unit, which represents about 8,100 workers, would receive 4 percent pay raises retroactive to the start of the fiscal year in July, step adjustments starting next July, and 3.5 percent raises in January 2016 and January 2017, sources familiar with the agreement say. Star-Advertiser.

Wealthy Chinese buyers have an “insatiable appetite” for Hawaii real estate, and there is a group that is looking to purchase larger projects and is even in discussions with local developers, a Canadian entrepreneur and co-founder of a New York and Shanghai-based company that offers lifestyle and travel opportunities to its private network of high net worth and emerging wealth Chinese members said Wednesday. Pacific Business News.

The number of Hawaii residents and businesses filing for bankruptcy fell in September to the lowest level in more than five years. Associated Press.

Oahu

Honolulu ranks 13th in nation for poor roads. Honolulu's pothole-plagued roads have improved in recent years but local drivers still pay a heavy toll in car-repair costs to use them, a D.C.-based transportation research group found. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii's burgeoning economic expansion bodes well for the long-term success of efforts to redevelop Kakaako, a top official from developer Howard Hughes Corp. said Wednesday. The Dallas-based developer is gearing up to begin sales in December for three condominium towers planned for the first phase of its Ward Village project, a master-planned community that Howard Hughes envisions will ultimately include more than 4,000 residential units and more than 1 million square feet of new retail and commercial space in Kakaako. Star-Advertiser.

It was a sweltering, standing-room only affair when a proposed 46-story condominium and its accompanying 107-foot-tall parking garage brought nearly 200 people to the Hawaii Community Development Authority’s offices in Kakaako on Wednesday. The skyscraper and parking facility are part of a contentious mixed-use housing project at the site of the old Honolulu Advertiser building on the corner of Kapiolani Boulevard and South Street, and the HCDA was holding a public hearing to let citizens voice their concerns. Civil Beat.

There's mounting opposition to plans to redevelop the iconic Honolulu Advertiser building. Dozens testified against the plan to demolish the back half of the 84-year-old building during a meeting of the Hawaii Community Development Authority. And hundreds more have signed petitions opposing the project. Hawaii News Now.

Plans for a five-tower condominium complex at the former site of the Kam Drive-In Theater in Aiea won a favorable recommendation by a 7-0 vote of the Honolulu Planning Commission on Wednesday, The rezoning request for the 1,500-unit project, which will also include commercial space and possibly a small hotel, will now go before the Honolulu City Council. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii

A bill to ban hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — received the support of the Hawaii County Council during its first reading Wednesday. The council, which must vote on the bill one more time, voted 7-0 in support after amending the legislation to increase penalties. Tribune-Herald.

Hawaii Island residents continued Wednesday to wrestle with the impacts of the far-flung budget acrimony in Washington, D.C., that has shuttered federally-funded sites and services across the nation. Tribune-Herald.

Amid concerns that clearing unsafe trees on private property could eat into the county’s road maintenance budget, the Hawaii County Council on Wednesday amended Bill 64, then scheduled a final vote for Oct. 16. Bill 64, aimed primarily at the invasive, fast-growing and brittle albizia tree, allows the county to clear occupied or unoccupied lots and recoup the costs from the landowner, if the landowner doesn’t clear the land within 30 days of a notice from the county. The county can take this action to clear “refuse, uncultivated undergrowth or unsafe flora,” according to the bill. West Hawaii Today.

Maui
Maui County is on its way to finally leveling the infamous Montana Beach house in Paia with a council committee Tuesday recommending approval of $50,000 for demolition work scheduled to begin early next year. Maui News.

Maui County said Wednesday that it intends to select Lahaina-based Hawaii Pacific Solar LLC to install, operate, maintain and own solar photovoltaic systems, and then sell the energy generated to the county under a power purchase agreement for 18 sites on Molokai and Maui that total about 1 megawatt of power. Pacific Business News.

Maui County announced it will award a “Multi-Facility Solar Rooftop Project” to Hawaiʻi Pacific Solar of Lahaina. The contract is for the installation of more photovoltaic panels at 18 community facilities on Maui and Molokaʻi. Maui Now.

After the government shutdown went into effect Tuesday, the closures of Haleakala National Park, Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge and other federally funded entities have already had "very disappointing" effects for local businesses on Maui. Maui News.

Kauai

The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative said Wednesday it plans to ask the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission to approve a $10.27 monthly charge for customers who don’t use the wireless “smart meters” that are now standard for the utility. Pacific Business News.

Think keeping that old electric meter was a smart decision? Well, peace of mind could come with an additional monthly fee. About 10 dollars a month, or $120 annually. Garden Island.

The Kauai County Council’s Planning Committee unanimously approved Wednesday sending a proposal to the Legislature to fund three pesticide inspectors at the state Department of Agriculture. Garden Island.