Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Obama family again to vacation on Oahu, Hawaii Supreme Court upholds Hawaiian blood quantum, Bloomberg to campaign for Schatz, DOE tests school bus routes, Honolulu mulls bus ads, warden named for Kulani prison, bill to allow 16-year-olds to vote, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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Hawaii Supreme Court (c) 2013 All Hawaii News
The Hawaii Supreme Court has upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit contending that the Office of Hawaiian Affairs should spend its trust funds on people with 50 percent or more Hawaiian blood. The high court's ruling on Tuesday affirms OHA's use of funds for the benefit of those with any amount of Hawaiian blood. Star-Advertiser.

Read the entire Kealoha opinion here.

Hawaii News Now has learned that the President, First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia will travel to Honolulu sometime around December 20.

Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland intends to introduce a bill at the Legislature next session that would trigger a ballot initiative to let the people decide on whether the minimum age for voting should be on par with the minimum age for driving solo. Civil Beat.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, has landed a big name to help him with his reelection campaign. Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City, will headline a reception for Schatz Jan. 2 in Honolulu. A ticket for the event, to be held at the Kahala home of developer Duncan MacNaughton, is $1,000. Civil Beat.

After more than a decade as New York City's mayor, it looks like Michael Bloomberg has decided which sunset he'll ride off into when his third and final term is over on the first of the year. Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz, who is up for re-election in 2014, has landed the venerable mayor to headline a fundraising reception in Honolulu on Jan. 2. HuffPost Hawaii.

Financial disclosure requirements for Hawaii Supreme Court justices rate a grade of D, according to a nonprofit digital news organization. But the requirements for the highest state courts in 42 states received an F, the Center for Public Integrity said in a report issued Tuesday. That leaves Hawaii, even with a D, with the sixth-best disclosure requirements among all states, the center said. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii’s health exchange violates the National Voter Registration Act, says the state’s League of Women Voters. The voter act requires all states to provide residents access to voter registration when applying for a driver’s license, welfare, unemployment benefits and a host of public programs. But the Hawaii Health Connector, established by the Legislature as a nonprofit to run the Obamacare exchange and funded with $200 million in federal money, fails to provide information about voting on its website or in other materials. Hawaii Reporter.

The State Department of Health is proposing changes to food sanitation rules. They're holding public hearings statewide to get input on the 172 pages of new regulations. The Department is concerned with food safety.  But there may be consequences for nonprofit agencies that feed those who need help. Hawaii Public Radio.

The new student transportation system that the Hawaii Department of Education is testing out at about 30 schools in the Pearl City and Aiea areas has the potential to significantly slash costs within a few years, preliminary results from the pilot program suggest. Civil Beat.

The state Department of Education announced Tuesday that Roberts Hawaii and Ground Transport Inc. will provide bus service for Oahu schoolchildren in the 2014-2015 school year. At a cost of nearly $21 million, contracts were awarded Nov. 27 following a request for proposal process that began in July. Star-Advertiser.

State roundup for December 4. Associated Press.

Oahu

Allowing paid advertising on the sides and backs of city buses is the latest money-raising plan being proposed by Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell. Caldwell, who forwarded Bill 69 to the City Council late Tuesday, said the plan could bring in as much as $8 million annually and that all of the money would go to bus operations. Star-Advertiser.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s administration continues to flout the city Ethics Commission, this time with a not-so-subtle memo that went to all municipal agencies. On Dec. 2, Corporation Counsel Donna Leong said her department will now begin providing ethics advice to all city employees, particularly as it relates to standards of conduct, conflicts of interest and fair treatment. Civil Beat.

The community group Keep the North Shore Country says the plan to deal with environmental impacts caused by the expansion of Turtle Bay Resort is deficient and that the city Department of Planning and Permitting should not have accepted it from the resort owners. Star-Advertiser.

A widely used Diamond Head seawall is old and deteriorating. Now, after a 10-year fight, we finally know who's responsible for taking care of the wall. What we don't know is what the state will do now that it's been deemed the owner. KHON2.

Kamehameha Schools is putting up for sale two of Oahu's largest shopping centers, which combined could fetch upward of $400 million. The trust said Tuesday that it intends to offer for sale the buildings and other improvements at Windward Mall in Kaneohe and Hawaii Kai Towne Center while holding onto the underlying land. Star-Advertiser.

St. Francis Healthcare System of Hawaii expects it will cost $20 million to turn a portion of the former Hawaii Medical Center East into a 119-bed skilled nursing facility, double the original estimate reported last spring. Pacific Business News.

The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz pulled into Pearl Harbor on Tuesday after an extended deployment that saw the big ship positioned for support of a possible strike on Syria in September. The crew and air wing totaling about 5,000 are in port for a few days before the carrier heads to San Diego and then to its home port of Everett, Wash., by Christmas. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii

Ruth Coller Forbes has been hired as the new warden for the Kulani Correctional Facility. Forbes, who most recently worked as a corrections supervisor for Hawaii Community Correctional Center, took the new job effective Sunday, the state Department of Public Safety said. She will be responsible for overseeing the minimum-security prison and getting it ready for re-opening July 1. Tribune-Herald.

The County Council’s Finance Committee postponed action on a resolution to accept a public easement through a proposed Kohala Coast development Tuesday while questions over the existence of a historical trail continued to be raised. Tribune-Herald.

A proposed 43-lot Kona subdivision got bogged down Tuesday in the County Council Planning Committee after a disagreement between the developers and the Department of Public Works about how much of Hualalai Road the developer is responsible for. After 2 1/2 hours of discussion, the Planning Committee agreed to postpone the rezoning until Dec. 17 to allow several amendments to clarify how much of the improvements will be credited to fair share requirements and how much of Hualalai Road should be improved and to address density and drainage issues. West Hawaii Today.

The Hawaii Supreme Court, taking a rare road trip, Tuesday in the case at the University of Hawaii at Hilo Performing Arts Center as part of the state Judiciary’s Courts in the Community outreach program. About 300 people, including high school and UH-Hilo students — and a plethora of lawyers — were in the audience. Tribune-Herald.

Maui

The recent shark attacks are prompting calls for action, including a renewed debate about culling  the creatures. Some people want the state to kill tiger sharks. Hawaii News Now.

Two Maui residents were included in the latest round of governor-appointed positions to fill vacancies within the state’s board and commissions. A&B Properties Vice President, Grant Chun, was appointed to a seat on the state Board of Education; and Kula resident, Doreen Nāpua Gomes assumes the Maui seat on the Hawaiian Homes Commission. Maui Now.

Policy and business leaders will explore the electric power generation transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy during a conference March 26-28 at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Maui News.

Already burdened with the nation's highest electricity bills, Hawaii residents are paying even more for renewable energy development, and what they pay depends on whether they're among the "haves" or the "have-nots." Maui News.

Kauai

Sunday marked the beginning of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture’s “Good Neighbor Program” on Kauai. And each large agricultural company — the same five mentioned in controversial Article 22 (formerly Bill 2491) — has expressed its willingness to comply. Those companies include DuPont Pioneer, BASF, Dow AgroSciences, Syngenta and Kauai Coffee. Laurie Yoshida, communications manager at Pioneer, said her company — as well as others — believe Article 22 related to pesticides and genetically modified organisms is legally flawed, and that regulation and oversight of the industry should remain at the state level. Garden Island.

The Kauai County Council will hold a public hearing today on a bill that could waive waste disposal fees for approved cleanup efforts on county land. It is a move that some say will help cut the red tape associated with doing volunteer work for the county. Garden Island.