Thursday, April 3, 2014

Thirty Meter Telescope gets the go-ahead, minimum wage hike advances, Hawaii Obamacare head testifies in Washington, Hagel shows war machines, Honolulu's secret budget, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

Hawaii Island Mauna Kea
Thirty Meter Telescope, artist rendering, courtesy photo
Hilo Circuit Court Judge Greg Nakamura ruled in favor of the Thirty Meter Telescope project Wednesday. Nakamura based his decision off four points, including one that found that the Board of Land and Natural Resources’ approval of a conservation district land use permit to the University of Hawaii at Hilo prior to holding a contested case hearing did not warrant reversal of the decision or order. Tribune-Herald.

A bill to protect the state from unlimited liability for accidents on public land is in danger of dying for the second year in a row if a key committee doesn’t take up the legislation this week. The proposal, Senate Bill 1007, has incited a groundswell of support from paragliders, bikers, hikers, rock climbers and others who worry about the potential closure of public trails if the state is left vulnerable to lawsuits. Civil Beat.

A key committee in the state House of Representatives advanced a bill that would increase the minimum wage to about $10 an hour, lower than the $10.10 that was previously called for in the proposal. Associated Press.

Is there still an argument to be made — either in favor of or in opposition to — an increase in Hawaii’s minimum wage that has not already been made? After four hearings on Senate Bill 2609, two floor debates and hundreds of pages of written testimony, it seems that there is nothing new to be said. Civil Beat.

Hawaii Reporter has obtained a copy of the testimony that Tom Matsuda, the Interim Executive Director of the Hawaii Health Connector, will present on April 3 to the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, the Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Job Creation and Regulatory Affairs and Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Health Care and Entitlements during a hearing on “Examining ObamaCare’s Problem-Filled State Exchanges.”

Improved science and the vast distance between Hawaii and the magnitude-8.2 earthquake that rocked Chile on Tuesday helped the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center to decide not to put the state in tsunami warning status, a move that would have likely triggered a costly evacuation and inconvenienced thousands. Star-Advertiser.

It took nearly four hours between the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center's first bulletin to when it sent out a tsunami Advisory Tuesday. The Center's director Chip McCreery said scientists needed the time to evaluate data. Hawaii News Now.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel showed off a state-of-the-art $1.3 billion Navy ship for foreign defense ministers Wednesday and Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft zoomed overhead — not in a demonstration of combat firepower but as a sign of the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief the U.S. military can provide. Star-Advertiser.

On Tap at the Hawaii Legislature: April 3. A selective list of bills, resolutions, hearings, briefings and events for Thursday at the state Capitol. Civil Beat.

Oahu

Things at Kailua District Park's pool haven't been so ducky. A sign posted Wednesday read: "CLOSED due to Duck Feces," and that's been the case since Saturday. Star-Advertiser.

State pest control officials on Thursday were moving to assess and eradicate an infestation of little fire ants in Waimanalo, but not before landing a scolding from a key state lawmaker. Star-Advertiser.

There's a new outbreak of Little Fire Ants in Waimanalo, and the state Agriculture Department is still trying to figure out the extent of the outbreak while some senators are critical of the state's response. Hawaii News Now.

The Caldwell administration is refusing to make public high-level budget documents that the mayor used to set his spending priorities for the upcoming fiscal year. These records show exactly how much money each department head — from the police chief to the managing director — asked for in 2015 along with the justification for those expenses. Civil Beat.

Who sits on the board of the Hawaii Community Development Authority historically has not been a contentious issue. But with the recent flurry of Kakaako condominium towers winning agency approval, the selection process is attracting more attention. Star-Advertiser.

Marilyn Lee has filed papers with the Office of Elections for the District 36 seat in the Hawaii House of Representatives.  Lee, a Democrat, served as the representative for Mililani, Mililani Mauka and Waipio Acres for 16 years. Civil Beat.

Renovation work on a new track field at Radford High School has been halted after debris and soil samples tested positive for contaminants including lead and arsenic, the state Department of Education announced Wednesday. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii

It’s Mayor Billy Kenoi’s biggest budget yet, and a full $18.4 million in a budget increasing by $18.3 million is going for employee raises and added benefits. Kenoi, presenting his budget Wednesday to the County Council Finance Committee, said the $412.6 million spending plan, 4.6 percent higher than last year, was accomplished without raising property taxes or user fees. West Hawaii Today.

After years of planning, an effort to build a network of mixed-use trails in Hilo will soon take its first steps along the winding path to completion. The Hilo Bayfront Trails project, spearheaded by a group of citizens working in partnership with the county and state, seeks to construct a multiuse trail system from the Wailuku River at Reed’s Island to Hilo Harbor’s cruise ship terminal, totaling about 6 miles, located on 700 acres of public land. Tribune-Herald.

The same Hawaii Island company known for its grass-fed hamburgers now wants to sell the electricity used to cook them. Parker Ranch Inc. CEO Neil “Dutch” Kuyper announced Wednesday the launch of Paniolo Power Company LLC, aimed at using renewable resources in Waimea to generate power. Tribune-Herald.

Parker Ranch on the Big Island, one of the oldest and largest ranches in the United States, has formed a new subsidiary called Paniolo Power Co. LLC to oversee its energy efforts. Pacific Business News.

University of Hawaii at Hilo officials say they are encouraged that this could be the year funding is secured for a permanent home for the university’s pharmacy school. Big Island Now.

The percentage of children in Hawaii receiving free and reduced lunch hit a new high in 2012, at the state level and in Hawaii County. That’s according to the annual Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count report, a national look at issues that affect children. West Hawaii Today.

Maui

The county Department of Parks and Recreation is hoping to add several new positions to its staff in the upcoming fiscal year, including park rangers, maintenance workers and administrative staff. Maui News.

The Maui Department of Water Supply today announced it has begun the long-awaited process of issuing water meters in the Upcountry area. Maui Now.

Maui County state senators indicated that major projects were spared the ax in the state Senate's version of the budget approved Monday. Maui News.

Kauai
More than 50 Kauai teachers showed up Tuesday night to Wilcox Elementary School with complaints about a pilot program that evaluates their classroom effectiveness. Garden Island.

A Native Hawaiian charged with commercial vending in a state park says he was only practicing his religious and cultural rights. Garden Island.

Kauai residents have a chance to weigh in on the future of transportation on Kauai tonight. The state Department of Transportation will host a public meeting from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the War Memorial Convention Hall in Lihue. Garden Island.

Lanai

Larry Ellison, the billionaire owner of Hawaii's island of Lanai, on Tuesday announced plans for the Lanai Documentary Film Festival, which seeks to "ignite and lead conversations for worldwide change by empowering the individual." Pacific Business News.

The Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawaiʻi partnered with the Blue ʻĀina program of Trilogy Excursions this weekend to collect a total of 300 cigarette butts from Hulopoʻe Beach Park on Lānaʻi. Maui Now.