Thursday, December 19, 2013

Hawaii, VA, near catchment tank solution, polar bear activist to trail Obama, pesticides reportedly sicken Kauai schoolchildren, legislative committees mull budget, EEOC sues Maui County over police, Hawaii County advances $61.5M bond issue, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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Hawaii veterans with catchment tank (c) 2013 All Hawaii News
Veterans in Hawaii may once again qualify for VA home loans on property served by rainwater catchment systems now that the federal and state governments appear close to untying a bureaucratic knot. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs stopped guaranteeing the financing for VA loans on homes with catchment systems in late 2011 because of a state Department of Health policy that did not recognize the water as safe for drinking or food preparation. Star-Advertiser.

A trio of top Hawaii economists presented a relatively rosy state financial forecast to the Legislature’s money committees Wednesday at the Capitol, but with caveats. The state has a record $844 million surplus on its hands but the carryover balances are expected to be smaller over the next few years. Civil Beat.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie and the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations will announce on Thursday the unemployment insurance tax rate for 2014. Hawaii News Now.

Republican Rep. Bob McDermott and Sen. Sam Slom are slamming the Hawaii Department of Education and University of Hawaii for what they’re describing as a deliberate effort to stonewall them in their recent attempts to access all materials in the “Pono Choices” sexual education pilot program.Civil Beat.

A state lawmaker suing the state for legalizing same-sex marriages says a controversial sex education program being taught in some public schools is inappropriate because it promotes a "homosexual lifestyle as a positive or ‘pono' choice." Rep. Bob McDermott (R, Ewa-Iroquois Point) said he heard from concerned parents during the state's debate over marriage equality that middle school students were being taught about same-sex relationships and oral and anal sex as part of the curriculum for a pilot sex education program called Pono Choices. Star-Advertiser.

President Barack Obama is expected to arrive with his family early Saturday for a 17-day holiday vacation at an oceanfront Kailua house with incredible views. This year, it appears Congress will reach a budget deal before the Christmas holiday, raising hopes for a more restful vacation and allowing additional time for bodysurfing, working out at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, shooting hoops and visiting his favorite local hangouts. Star-Advertiser.

An activist in a polar bear costume will be following President Barack Obama around Oahu during his upcoming holiday vacation with the goal of convincing him to reject the Keystone XL pipeline and take action on climate change. Pacific Business News.

Alleged nepotism, broken or unused facilities and key positions unfilled for long periods of time are several of the problems plaguing the Hawaii State Hospital, where employees have complained about suffering serious assaults from patients. Hawaii News Now.

Federal officials are starting a new effort to try to get better health data from Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander populations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday it’s launching a new project with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to increase the number of households from those groups in a national health interview survey. Associated Press.

The State Energy Office will provide technical assistance to the Department of Transportation for a recently announced energy efficiency program at state airports that is expected to save $518 million in energy costs over 20 years, the state announced Wednesday. Star-Advertiser.

Oahu
Opponents of a controversial plan to block off parking across the street from Laniakea Beach on Oahu's North Shore say they'll file suit if the Hawaii Department of Transportation puts up barriers along the road. The plan is the state's first effort to improve traffic in the area despite years of complaints by residents and motorists. Civil Beat.

It's called Kapakahi Stream and there's definitely something out of sorts with the Waipahu stream's water quality. Hawaii News Now.

Former Kamehameha Schools teacher Gabriel Alisna was indicted Wednesday on multiple felony charges involving several students and sexual allegations. KHON2.

Patricia Hamamoto will retire from her post as principal of Saint Louis School at the end of the month, school officials announced Wednesday. Before taking on the post about four years ago, Hamamoto had served more than three decades in Hawaii's public school system -- the last eight years as superintendent of schools. Star-Advertiser.

The University of Hawaii plans to retain Michele Carbone as head of its Cancer Center, despite calls for a leadership change by some faculty who say the director's poor management has tarnished the center's reputation and jeopardized its funding. UH is working on a solution that would involve the embattled director keeping his job, while providing him support to help stabilize the center. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii

Three County Council members must have been feeling the holiday spirit Wednesday, attempting to load another eight projects and $2.4 million onto a $61.5 million bond authorization requested by Mayor Billy Kenoi. A parliamentary move by Kona Councilman Dru Kanuha stopped the projects before they even got a hearing, when he forced the council to vote for the original bill without considering the amendments. West Hawaii Today.

Developers of the Hu Honua Bioenergy plant in Pepeekeo scaled back work at the site as they await regulatory permits and approvals, according to company CEO John Sylvia. Tribune-Herald.

An apparent landlord-tenant dispute between Alahou Clean &Sober and its landlord, Tante Urban, has resulted in Urban taking over the current clients until a new organization steps in. Meanwhile, Alahou Clean &Sober Executive Director Sandra McCoy is working to move a downsized program to another location. West Hawaii Today.

Maui

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed suit against the Maui County Police Department, alleging that it violated federal law by not hiring a police applicant in 2009, according to a statement released from the commission. Pacific Business News.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Maui County for age discrimination Wednesday, saying it didn't hire a 45-year-old to be a police officer because of his age. The lawsuit filed in federal court in Honolulu alleges Maui County police passed over Lars Sandstrom even though it hired several less qualified candidates as police officers. Associated Press.

Christmas came early to West Maui on Tuesday when the second phase of the Lahaina bypass was blessed and opened, allowing motorists the option of skipping several of Lahaina town's busiest intersections. Maui News.

A project was launched Sunday to renovate the first floor of the University of Hawaii Maui College's Noi'i Building as the Daniel K. Inouye Allied Health Center, according to an announcement. Maui News.

Kauai
A noxious smell reportedly left dozens of students at Elsie H. Wilcox Elementary feeling nauseous around 1 p.m. Wednesday, authorities said. But the incident, which county officials believe was caused by a nearby neighbor spraying pesticides, occurred 15 minutes before the end of the school day, so students didn’t have to miss class time. Garden Island.

The Kauai County Council approved a measure Wednesday that Coco Palms Resort developers say will give them enough time to obtain building permits and begin restoring the well-known Wailua hotel. Garden Island.

The Kauai County Council has given new life to an expedited permit process enacted by ordinance 20 years ago to speed the repair of structures battered by Hurricane Iniki. The Council's 6-1 vote on Wednesday gives an Oahu investment group, Coco Palms Hui LLC, more time to work with the county on matters such as building permits and restoration plans for the iconic Coco Palms Resort, which has remained shuttered since the Category 4 storm hit the island 21 years ago. Star-Advertiser.