Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Hawaii growth slows, state seeks $8.8B for military, Obama vacation costs taxpayers $4M, Kauai to comply with lobbying law, Pasha ends interisland shipping, Haleakala Trail settlement nears, Oahu dentist investigated in toddler death, HIPP ag labels considered, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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A new airstrip at Pohakuloa Training Area on Hawaii island, a return to live-fire training at Makua Valley on Oahu, a stronger state-military-business partnership, and military “liaisons” in Hawaii and Washington, D.C., are being pursued as the state seeks to maintain $8.8 billion in annual military expenditures amid defense budget cuts. Adm. Harry B. Harris, head of U.S. Pacific Fleet, called Hawaii the “gateway” to America’s re-balance to the Pacific. Star-Advertiser.

The state Council on Revenues on Tuesday lowered the state's revenue forecast for this fiscal year, expressing some doubt about the rate of Hawaii's economic growth. The council projected 3.3 percent revenue growth for fiscal year 2014, down from 4.1 percent in September, an estimated $43 million loss to the state. The council was unusually divided — the vote was 4-3 — because some members wanted to drop the forecast even lower, given signs that the economy is slowing. The council voted unanimously to keep the projection of 7.4 percent revenue growth for fiscal year 2015, when construction is expected to accelerate. Star-Advertiser.

A Hawaii Senate panel began its probe into safety conditions at the state mental hospital Tuesday, raising serious questions about dysfunction at the facility. The investigation, led by Sens. Clayton Hee and Josh Green, stems from reports of severe assaults on staff members by patients housed at the Hawaii State Hospital in Kaneohe. Civil Beat.

The state Senate will form an investigative panel with subpoena power to probe whether poor management at the Hawaii State Hospital has left workers at extreme risk of assaults by patients. The Senate will also investigate claims of nepotism among supervisors at the Kaneohe psychiatric hospital and whether workers who have spoken out about hospital conditions have been marked for retaliation. Star-Advertiser.

Ted Sakai, director of the agency that oversees Hawaii's prison system, rattled off his wishlist for the department. Among other things, he wants to add $4.6 million to his budget to pay for an additional 69 employees and cover an array of other expenses. Civil Beat.

More than 130 Family Court misdemeanor cases have been dismissed by state judges, and at least another 100 more will be tossed out, as a result of a recent Hawaii Supreme Court decision. Star-Advertiser.

The Obamas’ vacation cost taxpayers more than $4 million for travel, staffing, security, housing, car rentals and transportation of vehicles and a helicopter. But the expenses continue. First Lady Michelle Obama extended her own vacation, flying to the island of Maui, where she is spending time with family friend Oprah Winfrey. Hawaii Reporter.

Hawaii workers testing positive for marijuana dropped 7 percent in 2013 compared with the previous year, new data from Diagnostic Laboratory Services Inc. show. The use of marijuana, known locally as pakalolo, fell 11.5 percent year-over-year in the fourth quarter. Star-Advertiser.

The University of Hawaii could receive as much as $10 million in a one-time state "boost" to help buoy its financially struggling athletic department under a measure to be proposed by state Rep. K. Mark Takai. Tuesday, Takai (D-Aiea) said he will propose a bill that would allow the state to provide $2 in assistance for each $1 of new money raised by the athletic department up to $10 million. Star-Advertiser.

Living Hawaii: Priced Out of Paradise — Where $600K Is a Bargain Home. Civil Beat.

Oahu

Honolulu is the second-most sought-after travel destination for 2014, according to the first State of Travel Report by online travel site Hotwire.com. Las Vegas was top-ranked.Star-Advertiser.

New year, new prices. Local residents are starting off 2014 with an expensive bang, paying more for their home. The cost for homes and rent is going up and so is the value of your property. KHON2.

The state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs has begun an investigation of Kailua dentist Dr. Lilly Geyer after a 3-year-old girl fell into a coma while she was in the dentist's chair and later died. Star-Advertiser.

Negotiations on the $142 million affordable housing deal that would sell Honolulu’s 12 leasehold public apartment complexes to a private group will continue until at least the end of March, city officials said Tuesday. Pacific Business News.

The city is offering to finance the sale of its affordable housing units. Chinatown tenants say this is a bad idea. Hawaii Independent.

The Hawaii Community Development Authority is planning to meet on Wednesday to vote on a proposal for a new 7-story residential building in Kakaako. The application by MJF Development Corp. is the second time the company has sought approval for a new building at 803 Waimanu St. Civil Beat.

Hawaii

Most County Council members are hip to the idea of a special label for local produce and products, but they’re not sure HIPP — Hawaii Island Produce and Products — is the way to go. And they definitely don’t like HIPP-O as a brand name for organic produce. West Hawaii Today.

Last year was a safer year on Big Island roads than 2012, which was the deadliest year on our streets and highways since 2004. There were 25 official traffic fatalities on Hawaii Island in 2013 compared to 38 the year before, a decrease of 34.2 percent. Tribune-Herald.

The Hawaii County Council’s Finance Committee gave a nod Tuesday to funding for Puna road projects and a community park for one of the district’s large subdivisions. In three 8-0 votes, the committee gave its support to adding the road and park projects to the county’s capital budget. Tribune-Herald.

A small group of Konawaena High School students gathered at Julian Yates Field Tuesday morning for a demonstration that sought to raise awareness about potential cuts made to the school’s library. West Hawaii Today.

Dozens of divers get rare opportunity to swim with whale shark. KITV4.

A Hawaii County councilwoman is introducing a bill to ban all genetically modified crops on Hawaii island, despite new limits already being implemented through a bill passed a month ago. Associated Press.

Maui

With ownership of Haleakala Trail still disputed, the state and Haleakala Ranch are hoping to resolve the matter with an out-of-court settlement that would allow the ranch to keep the trail private in exchange for open public access to the Na Kula area on the south slope of the dormant volcano, which for years has been accessible only by helicopter. Maui News.

Pasha Hawaii Transport Lines discontinued its interisland shipping service at the end of the year with the lapsing of its more than three-year interim authority. Maui News.

Thirty-six programs and events in Maui County were selected to receive support through the Hawaii Tourism Authority's Product Enrichment Programs. Maui News.

Kauai
A Kauai County Council committee will consider a bill today aimed at closing a loophole that has allowed lobbyists appearing before the governing body to operate unchecked. Other local governments, including Maui and Hawaii Counties as well as the City and County of Honolulu, have lobbying laws that require lobbyists to register with respective county or state offices but no such law exists on Kauai County’s books. Garden Island.

Kauai’s Pacific Missile Range Facility and the island of Niihau have been selected by the University of Alaska Fairbanks as one of 13 range sites for future drone research and testing. Garden Island.

A Kauai private investigator has filed suit against the Department of Public Safety for violating the procurement process in contracting out polygraph testing work. Garden Island.