Thursday, December 5, 2013

Hawaii economy up, 'alarming' increase in Army DUI, more on Obama family visit, Honolulu preps for marathon, Kakaako condo approved, Molokai could be 100% renewable, Hawaii County advances $61M bond, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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Hawaii’s state economists are forecasting a higher economic growth rate of nearly 3 percent for 2014, despite lowering the 2013 growth rate in a quarterly economic report released on Wednesday. Pacific Business News.

The White House hasn't officially announced its plans yet, but Hawaii News Now has learned the Obamas will vacation here over the holidays.  This will be the First Family's sixth Christmas in Hawaii since he was elected president, and keeping with tradition they are expected to spend it in Kailua.

The Army is reporting an "alarming increase" in drunken driving by soldiers in Hawaii as the military continues to struggle with the consequences of war and a return to "garrison" life. Star-Advertiser.

Dozens of upset individuals have taken to social media to express anger over a major airline's alleged treatment of a World War II veteran believed to have been on his way to Hawaii for a remembrance ceremony at Pearl Harbor. We have received unconfirmed reports that despite telling employees that he was a veteran on his way to Hawaii for a memorial at the Arizona Memorial on December 7, a war veteran named Ewalt Shatz was bumped off of United Airlines flight 1226 from Los Angeles International Airport to Honolulu on Wednesday because the plane was overweight. Hawaii News Now.

The Hawaii Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling on Wednesday that said the state violated its own rules in allowing construction of a $17 million activity center at Kawaiahao Church to proceed without requiring the church to do an archaeological inventory survey first.  Some 660 dug-up human remans have languished in the church’s basement while the project has remained stalled for months amid court proceedings. The burials were expected to be reinterred in another part of the church property, but last year’s ruling by the Intermediate Court of Appeals on the AIS halted the project and left the fate of the remains in limbo. Civil Beat.

Oahu

The Honolulu Marathon, which will be run for the 41st year on Sunday, is on pace to bolster the state's $15 billion visitor industry during the seasonal lull right before the winter holidays. While entries for this year's race were flat going into the Honolulu Marathon Expo, organizers say that this year could still pull ahead of 2012. Before the opening of late registration on Wednesday, 29,575 runners had entered the race compared with 29,937 at the same point last year. Another 2,000 to 4,000 runners are expected to enter before Saturday's 5 p.m. cutoff, topping last year's total of 31,083 racers.Star-Advertiser.

Due in part to what happened at the Boston Marathon, there will be added security at the beginning, end, and on the route of the Honolulu Marathon on Sunday. There will be more uniformed and plain clothes police officers on the scene. KHON2.

Donors to Mayor Kirk Caldwell's transition committee which raised $400,000 for an inauguration party and to help install him in office had significant business interests with the city, according to a list of the donors released Wednesday by the Honolulu Ethics Commission. Some donors, who were implicated in an ethics investigation of the committee, also included registered lobbyists and cabinet members Carolee Kubo and Chris Takashige. Civil Beat.

A memorandum this week from city Corporation Counsel Donna Leong telling department heads that her office will advise city employees about ethical issues has drawn the ire of Ethics Commission Executive Director Chuck Totto. Totto told members of the seven-member commission on Wednesday that Leong's position could confuse employees and the public about where they should turn for advice on ethical issues, noting that he has already received calls from perplexed workers about the Dec. 2 memo. Star-Advertiser.

Subpoenas could be on the way for Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s top executives if the administration continues to stonewall the Ethics Commission and its investigations into possible corruption at city hall. On Wednesday, at the third meeting on what's become a fast-disintegrating relationship between the commission and the administration, commissioners made it clear that they could soon take legal action to pry information loose in ethics investigations, including cases involving nepotism and political favoritism. Civil Beat.

Sales are expected to begin early next year for a second "workforce housing"condominium tower in Kakaako aimed at moderate-income residents after a state agency approved the project at the mauka end of South Street on Wednesday. The 410-unit tower representing a second phase of a project called 801 South St. won unanimous approval from the nine-member Hawaii Community Development Authority, the agency regulating development in Kakaako. Star-Advertiser.

The Hawaii Community Development Authority has given Downtown Capital LLC permission to develop a second residential tower in Kakaako at 801 South St. despite the vocal opposition of hundreds of local residents. Civil Beat.

A largely empty, five-story parking structure on South King Street just makai of the Alapai Street police station should soon be filling up and earning some cash for the city. The city reached an agreement with the Federal Transit Administration in September to allow city employees who don't have transit-related jobs to park at the location at least until the entire $100 million Joint Traffic Management Center is completed in late summer or early fall of 2016. Star-Advertiser.

California developer Champlin Windpower is proposing to add a second wind farm here next to the current Kahuku wind farm, called Na Pua Makani. KHON2.

A Mainland biomass company with ties to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen could shake up the energy scene in Hawaii by providing a quick, environmentally-friendly, lower-cost solution to fossil fuels such as fuel oil and liquefied natural gas to power up Hawaiian Electric Co.’s power stations. Pacific Business News.

Hawaii

Kailua-Kona is the top U.S. Destination on the Rise for 2013, the world’s largest travel website, TripAdvisor.com, announced this week. The West Hawaii town earned the title based on the reviews and opinions of millions of TripAdvisor travelers. Anchorage, Alaska, took second and Destin, Fla., placed third on the 2013 Travelers’ Choice Top 10 Destinations on the Rise in the U.S. list. West Hawaii Today.

Unlike his last omnibus bond authorization request before a prior County Council, it was full steam ahead Tuesday for Mayor Billy Kenoi’s request to borrow $61 million for 23 projects countywide. The council Finance Committee, meeting into the evening, unanimously agreed to forward Kenoi’s bond package to the County Council with a positive recommendation. West Hawaii Today.

A software vendor is scrambling to get Hawaii County’s online building permit system back online, three weeks after the county took down the public portal because it wasn’t working right. West Hawaii Today.

A former case manager at CARE Hawaii filed suit against the mental health care provider, claiming she was wrongfully terminated after reporting other case managers illegally billed the state and private health insurance companies for work they didn’t do. Tribune-Herald.

The Hawaii County Council has cleared the way for the completion of the Mamalahoa Highway bypass in South Kona. The council approved a resolution Wednesday allowing for the county to acquire portions of nine parcels through eminent domain. Tribune-Herald.

Maui

A two-mile stretch of coastal waters off South Maui was closed Wednesday after two divers reported aggressive behavior by a shark that followed them to shore near Little Beach -- just two days after a fatal attack on a kayak fisherman nearby. State officials said the divers told lifeguards that an 8- to 10-foot Galapagos shark made several passes at them while they were spearfishing close to shore off Black Sand Beach at Makena about 11:20 a.m. Star-Advertiser.

Residents who qualified for the circuit breaker tax credit last year but would not qualify under the stricter criteria passed by the Maui County Council earlier this year are encouraged to still submit their applications as the council continues to deliberate on which criteria to make, county officials said Tuesday. Maui News.

Two appraisals ordered by the Maui County Council last month for 186 acres in Launiupoko came back with "significantly different" values, further convoluting a yearlong effort to sign a deal that would preserve open space along the West Maui coastline. Maui News.

A grand opening celebration will be held this Friday night, Dec. 6, at the new The Outlets of Maui shopping center in Lahaina. Maui Now.

Kauai

The Garden Isle recently earned a No. 2 ranking on TripAdvisor’s list of the 10 best islands in the United States, according to the website’s 2013 Travelers’ Choice awards. Kauai was bested only by San Juan Island, Wash., but placed ahead of Maui, 5, and Hawaii Island, 8, as the top Hawaiian island to crack the list. Garden Island.

Kauai County is moving forward on a $9.2 million project aimed at improving Hardy Street to meet the county’s newly-implemented Complete Streets policy. That policy seeks to create walkable, commuter-friendly communities. According to proposed Department of Public Works plans, two travel lanes with a landscaped median, turn lanes, bike lanes on both sides of the street, on-street parking, planter strips and continuous sidewalks will run the length of Hardy Street. Garden Island.

Molokai

A proposed renewable energy project for Molokai combines solar and stored hydroelectric power with the goal of 100 percent renewable energy for the island and lowered electric rates for local customers. The project, called Ikehu Molokai, is still in the early stages of discussion. It would be a joint endeavor between California-based Princeton Energy Group and landowner Molokai Ranch. If completed, Molokai would become the first grid in the world to be converted completely to renewable energy, said Princeton CEO Steve Tabor. Molokai Dispatch.