Friday, January 10, 2014

Hawaii airfares rise, state lawmakers tackle hot schools, legislator continues fight against sex-ed class, UH cancer director keeps job, Honolulu councilman to run for state Senate, monitors planned near geothermal plant, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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Airplane over Waikiki sunset (c) 2014 All Hawaii News
The chief executive of Hawaiian Airlines says airfares that have risen for travelers throughout Hawaii are reasonable given rises in fuel costs, government fees and other operating costs. Associated Press.

Ask most folks about the cost of an airline ticket these days, and they’ll tell you they’re too high. Cost too much. No reason for those airfares to be what they are, other than filling the pockets of CEOs. We have no choice here on Kauai, some say, so the airlines are sticking it to us. Mark Dunkerley says otherwise. Garden Island.

Hawaii’s blistering classrooms could soon see cooler days if state lawmakers decide to give public schools money this year for air conditioning, a rare commodity that’s lacking even in the hottest parts of the islands. Legislators on the education committees expect classroom cooling to get some buzz during the upcoming legislative session, which kicks off Jan. 15. Civil Beat.

About 640 children from low-income families across the state will be eligible to enroll in pre-kindergarten classes next year at 30 public school campuses that were announced Thursday by the state's Executive Office on Early Learning and the Department of Education. The plan is contingent on $4.5 million in state funding that legislators have yet to consider. But Gov. Neil Abercrombie says he's confident the Legislature will make the investment. Star-Advertiser.

It's a topic that's been on the table for quite some time -- a state-funded pre-kindergarten program for 4-year-olds. On Thursday, the state announced that it finally hopes to have one in place by August. KHON2.

A state House lawmaker complained Thursday that a pilot sex education curriculum for middle school students is not medically accurate or age appropriate, and deliberately minimizes the health risks of homosexual behavior. Pono Choices is part of the state Department of Education's abstinence-based sex education policy but also emphasizes condom use to reduce the risk of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. The pilot curriculum is now in 12 schools, with eight other schools scheduled for training. Star-Advertiser.

There's more controversy over the state's Pono Choices sex education program. This time it involves one of the controversial curriculum's critics. Tito Montes, president of the Hawaii Republican Assembly, is under fire for calling a respected Hawaiian leader and cultural practicioner a "transvestite" and a "drag queen." Hawaii News Now.

Bob McDermott, it seems, is obsessed with anuses. In particular, the state legislator believes that the anus is not the same as a penis or a vagina because it isn't involved in making babies. Public schools should not teach kids in grades 6-8 that anal sex is appropriate behavior — something the Republican representing Ewa, Ewa Beach and Iroquois Point, argues is part of the "agenda" of a Department of Education sex-ed program called Pono Choices. Civil Beat.

There are 210 days left before the Primary Election and the race for Hawai’i’s U.S. Senate seat will be gearing up for what could be a close vote. Hawaii Public Radio.

The U.S. Attorney's office in Hawaii says it collected more than $2.4 million in civil and criminal actions for the 2013 fiscal year. U.S. Attorney Florence Nakakuni announced Thursday $1.5 million was collected in criminal actions and about $930,000 was collected in civil actions. Associated Press.

The Hawaii House and Senate majorities are planning to advance legislation this session that would put the state on a timetable to determine the potential impacts of climate change in Hawaii and implement policies to counteract them. Lawmakers met Thursday during an informational briefing at the state Capitol that was called in response to recent destructive coastal erosion on Oahu’s North Shore. Civil Beat.

Gordon Ito, insurance commissioner for the state of Hawaii, has an inbox filled with all matters relating to regulating insurance in the islands, with the exception of paying workers' compensation benefits. Earlier this week, the Insurance Division released rate guides for health, homeowner and car policies, posting them online (cca.hawaii.gov/ins). Star-Advertiser.

A new plan to calm a broadening controversy at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center won't solve the main problems, according to least a half-dozen faculty members who have spoken out, written letters or filed complaints with the university. Civil Beat.

Michele Carbone, the embattled director of the University of Hawaii Cancer Center, will retain his job under a revamped leadership team that will include a chief operating officer and senior adviser as well as new reporting lines, the university announced Thursday. Star-Advertiser.

State roundup for January 10. Associated Press.

Oahu
Honolulu City Councilman Breene Harimoto announced this week that he is forgoing a re-election bid this fall to run for the state Senate 16th District seat. Meanwhile, Harimoto legislative aide Brandon Ele­fante said he intends to run for the seat his boss is leaving behind. Star-Advertiser.

Honolulu officials continue to negotiate with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development over how much money the city owes the federal agency for mismanaging grant funds that were given to a Central Oahu nonprofit. HUD just lowered their demand to $3 million. Civil Beat.

Reviews from the Waikiki community were mixed upon getting the first glimpse of the planned Ritz-Carlton Waikiki Beach Residences luxury tower and an adjacent second tower in their totality. The developer, PACREP LLC, held a community meeting Thursday night in Wai­kiki to respond to the community furor that broke out last month when it filed plans with the city to construct a 39-story tower at 2139 Kuhio Ave., which will be a stand-alone, 350-foot building with up to 280 units. Star-Advertiser.

“How do you musubi?” That’s the theme of 12 television commercials featuring Spam that Hormel Foods is filming in Hawaii, in partnership with Aloha Plate food truck and Cooking Hawaiian Style. Pacific Business News.

Hawaii

The Windward Planning Commission made a small first step Thursday toward funding some of the recommendations of the geothermal working group. The commission’s agenda included requests from Mayor Billy Kenoi to tap the county’s geothermal asset fund for several of the group’s recommended projects, including the purchase of stationary and hand-held gas monitors. Tribune-Herald.

Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano, has erupted many times — most recently three decades ago with lava coming within just miles of Hilo — and it will erupt again, posing a significant risk to those who call Hawaii Island home, a Hawaii Volcano Observatory geologist said Wednesday. But, the million dollar question remains: When is Mauna Loa going to erupt again? West Hawaii Today.

Maui

The County of Maui, Office of the Mayor in partnership with the state Department of Agriculture issued an urgent advisory this afternoon asking the public to check hāpuʻu tree ferns purchased on Maui over the last 12 months for little fire ants. Maui Now.

Despite a public notice and signs telling people to stay away, motorists are still trying to drive around the north side of West Maui and getting caught in a road-paving project area with no option except to turn around, Maui County officials said. Maui News.

Kauai

Little fire ants, considered one of the world’s smallest and nastiest invasive species, are back in the spotlight after turning up on Oahu and Maui last month. Garden Island.


Molokai

Students at Molokai High School will get science classroom labs up to state Department of Education standards to replace their makeshift ones in a construction project set to begin this year. Maui News.