Monday, January 6, 2014

Hawaii Legislature gears up for session with budget briefings, UH presidential search underway, First Lady lengthens Hawaiian vacation as Obama returns to Washingon, research team quits troubled East-West Center, Hawaii County buys $6.2M shoreline, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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Hawaii state Capitol (c) 2014 All Hawaii News
The Senate Ways and Means Committee and the House Finance Committee begin informational briefings today on proposed agency budgets, prior to the opening of the regular legislative session Jan. 15. Today's briefings, beginning at 1:30 p.m., center on the Judiciary and the Governor's Office. No public testimony will be considered.

Agendas and background materials in pdf format can be found by clicking the following links:
State education officials will be defending their budget requests before lawmakers beginning this week as the state House and Senate money committees hold budget briefings with departments ahead of the Legislature reconvening Jan. 15. Lawmakers will take up the fiscal 2015 budget next month, using Gov. Neil Abercrombie's proposed $12.2 billion operating budget as a starting point. The governor highlighted a record $844 million surplus at the close of last fiscal year in proposing higher spending in the coming year. Star-Advertiser.

The 15-day Hawaiian holiday vacation is over for President Barack Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia. The president and his daughters arrived back at the White House on a chilly, drizzly Sunday morning after an eight-hour flight on Air Force One. Mrs. Obama stayed behind to spend time with friends ahead of her upcoming 50th birthday party. Associated Press.

With all the laws in Hawaii regulating tobacco use, it might be only a matter of time before smoking is pretty much outlawed throughout the islands. Civil Beat.

The search for the next University of Hawaii president should get a boost this week with the expected hiring of an executive search firm. The Board of Regents' presidential selection committee — which first began meeting last June — will discuss search firm bids Wednesday afternoon at the UH-Manoa campus, according to the committee's meeting agenda. Star-Advertiser.

The recent overhaul of the GED, which marks the exam's fifth change since 1942, has caused consternation among adult education experts. They fear that the new format and the additional costs for students to take the test could prevent them from succeeding in a post-schooling world where academic credentials are increasingly important. In Hawaii, about 5 percent of Hawaii's teens drop out of high school each year. Civil Beat.

What is poi? A 1909 article, translated into English from Hawaiian, responding to a dictionary's dry description of "the paste or pudding." Hawaii Independent.

Oahu

Every year, the City and County of Honolulu lets slide an opportunity to get more than a quarter of a million dollars in federal funding to promote sustainable coastal development. The funds, which the other three counties in Hawaii receive, is mostly used to hire staff to implement the Coastal Zone Management Act, which is federal legislation that was passed in 1972 to balance the needs of environmental conservation with coastal development. Civil Beat.

For more than two decades, word was that the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl was at capacity for in-ground burials. But the reality is, Punchbowl has 99 open in-ground grave sites — information never shared by the VA with local veterans service organizations such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion or the 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd veterans clubs, officials said. Star-Advertiser.

A purchase agreement to sell 12 of Honolulu’s public housing projects to a private developer for $142 million still has a pulse, but city officials aren’t confident they can keep it alive. On Friday, Managing Director Ember Shinn told the Honolulu City Council Committee on Executive Matters and Legal Affairs that negotiations with the buyer to save the deal haven’t gone well. Civil Beat.

The four-person energy research team at the East-West Center in Honolulu has left the center, which promotes better relations between the United States and the Asia-Pacific region, as it moves toward a different business model that’s not as dependent on federal funds, but the leader of the team says the reason for the departures was to protest management at the center. Pacific Business News.

Prominent energy expert Fereidun Fesharaki and his staff have resigned from Honolulu’s East-West Center to protest what they claim is poor leadership and a lack of transparency within the organization. Civil Beat.

Hawaii may be the Rainbow State, but that's not true when it comes to the buildings in Honolulu. In contrast to more colorful cities such as Miami or Berlin, most of our buildings are painted beige or another neutral color, making the city literally pale against the imposing scenery. Civil Beat.

Hawaii

The shoreline at Ooma has escaped development — for good. Hawaii County on Friday announced it acquired the makai 217 acres at Ooma for $6.2 million under its Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation program. West Hawaii Today.

On the heels of a mostly positive external review of the legislative auditor’s office, the County Council will move closer next week to appointing an auditor to fill the position that’s been vacant for more than a year. West Hawaii Today.

Hilo’s downtown is getting a fresh coat of paint starting Monday. Paint company Benjamin Moore announced in June that Downtown Hilo will be one of 20 areas across the U.S. and Canada getting a paint job for the new year. The project is part of its 2013 Main Street Matters promotional contest. Tribune-Herald.

In what appears to be a growing trend among municipalities nationally, Hawaii island is becoming the third county in the state to do away with certain kinds of plastic bags at the grocery checkout counter. The ban on single-use plastic bags begins Jan. 17. Star-Advertiser.

The Hawaii Island’s YMCA is hoping to get back in the black this year following significant cuts to its programs in 2013. The nonprofit organization in Hilo suspended its child care programs last year while facing a $400,000 deficit. Tribune-Herald.

Maui

Pollution reduction projects in West Maui will be discussed during a presentation before the Maui Council’s Infrastructure and Environmental Management Committee on Monday. Maui Now.

An invasion of stinging fire ants with a taste for peanut butter and Spam and only as long as the thickness of a penny could be gaining a foothold on Maui, threatening the island's lifeblood visitor industry. Maui News.

Upcountry District 12 members of the Maui County Democratic Party will meet Wednesday afternoon in the Mayor Hannibal Tavares Community Center's multipurpose room in Pukalani. Maui News.

Kauai

For more than two decades, Bert Lyon has pushed local officials to change the at-large voting system for County Council members to one that distributes the seats into circumscribed island districts. It is a move the Kilauea man said would help minority candidates with smaller coffers and bring some stability to what he believes is a broken system. Garden Island.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will reduce the days Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge is open to the public to five days a week. Garden Island.

For months now, James Pflueger has been requesting that the Department of Land and Natural Resources stop state water from entering his property at the Ka Loko Reservoir in Kilauea — the site of a dam breach in 2006 that killed seven people. Garden Island.

Molokai

Hawaiian Airlines plans to begin service to Molokai and Lanai this year, and the certification process to launch its new subsidiary, Ohana by Hawaiian, has resumed. After 2013 budget sequestration caused delays in certification through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Hawaiian officials say things are back on track. Molokai Dispatch.

For the last two decades, community group Hui Malama o Mo'omomi has been managing Mo'omomi beach and its facilities on Molokai's north shore. Maui News.