Thursday, June 12, 2014

Don't touch the turtles, VA clinic, state mental hospital in disarray, Kauai anti-GMO pesticide charter petition rejected, pay hikes for mayor, council, Maui mayoral candidates opposed, high defaults at community colleges, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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Hawaii green sea turtle © 2014 All Hawaii News

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources is reminding the public to respect Hawaii’s sea turtles by viewing these protected animals responsibly. Associated Press.

Chinese ships steamed Tuesday toward waters near Hawaii to participate for the first time in the world’s largest naval exercises hosted by Washington — a rare opportunity to build trust with the U.S. and regional rivals, including the Philippines and Japan. Associated Press.

With most eyes on the Democratic race for lieutenant governor, the two Republican candidates vying for their party's nomination have much work ahead of them as they try to gain name recognition and get their messages out to voters in a historically blue state. The contest pits Warner "Kimo" Sutton, a Honolulu renewable energy entrepreneur, against Elwin Ahu, a former Honolulu District Court judge and senior pastor with New Hope Metro. Star-Advertiser.

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, which has endorsed U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz over U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, has sent a mailer to Hawaii residents that implies Hana­busa might privatize the entitlement programs. Star-Advertiser.

Former University of Hawaii President M.R.C. Greenwood will not be returning this fall as a tenured professor with a six-figure salary, and instead says she will retire at the end of the month, marking the end of a five-year career at the university. Star-Advertiser.

In a state that’s less prone than most to student loan payback problems, some of Hawaii’s two-year colleges are showing alarmingly high rates of default. Civil Beat.

The U.S. Department of Energy is spending $500,000 on a project to boost electric grid reliability in Hawaii. Associated Press.

State administration officials are planning to develop strategies to cope with the impact of climate change and rising sea levels in the Hawaiian Islands. Star-Advertiser.

If coming up with the money to pay public employee pensions gives Hawaii state and local governments fiscal indigestion, providing additional benefits such as health, life, dental and even chiropractic care to retirees is causing a multi-billion-dollar budgetary migraine. Civil Beat.

Oahu

Veterans Affairs officials told representatives of Hawaii's congressional delegation that military veterans only had to wait 30 days to see a primary care physician for the first time — just before a scathing audit revealed that new patients in Honolulu actually had the worst wait times in the entire system, 145 days. Star-Advertiser.

Veterans seeking care at the VA Medical Center here in Hawaii wait an average of 145 days. Maybe more striking, some 64,000 veterans enrolled in the system for at least 10 years have yet to see a doctor, says a Department of Veterans Affairs audit released Monday. Hawaii Reporter.

The Honolulu City Council is committing $32 million in bond money to house the homeless — on top of the nearly $24 million that Mayor Kirk Caldwell had earlier proposed for his Housing First initiative. Star-Advertiser.

Mayor and Council Chair disagree on grant money. Hawaii News Now.

A class-action lawsuit is being drawn up on behalf of injured psychiatric workers at the State Hospital in Kane­ohe amid allegations of nepotism and numerous assaults against employees, state Sen. Clayton Hee said Wednesday. Star-Advertiser.

A class-action lawsuit representing hundreds of State Hospital employees will be filed in the next several weeks, as the acting head of the troubled hospital announced he plans to retire after two decades there. Hawaii News Now.

State Sen. Clayton Hee’s inquiry into conditions at the Hawaii State Hospital took him to Kaneohe on Wednesday where he toured the mental health facility with top administrators, including Department of Health Director Linda Rosen. Civil Beat.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has fined Hawai‘i Gas $155,000 for violations of risk management plan regulations and chemical release reporting involving its Kapolei facility. The fine represents a settlement between the EPA and the company. Star-Advertiser.

The Oahu Burial Council is calling for closer scrutiny of the controversial redevelopment of the old Honolulu Advertiser building in Kakaako.Hawaii News Now.

Dole Plantation, one of Hawaii’s most-visited attractions with more than 1 million visitors each year, has gone solar to help it reduce its energy costs by 30 percent, a spokeswoman for the Oahu pineapple plantation told Pacific Business News.

Kelli Keawe, an office assistant with the Dept. of Public Safety, said for 10 years she was banned from all but one restroom in the building, because she is physically a man but identifies as a woman. The state now lets her in the women’s room and a federal anti-discrimination agency is also stepping in. KHON2.

Hawaii

Mayor Billy Kenoi will get a $22,848 raise next month, and top county managers and County Council members will also see pay hikes, under a plan advanced Tuesday by the county Salary Commission. West Hawaii Today.

On Friday the Board of Land and Natural Resources will address the proposed Mauna Kea sublease between the University of Hawaii and the Thirty Meter Telescope  LLC. Of particular importance is the sublease rent amounts UH is proposing to collect from the TMT LLC. Hawaii Independent.

Kona airport fire station dedicated. West Hawaii Today.

Honomu residents were given an early morning wake up call Wednesday when a tsunami warning siren activated on its own. Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Oliveira said the siren began malfunctioning at or shortly after 1:30 a.m. Tribune-Herald.

Maui

Developers of the long-awaited West Maui Hospital and Medical Center expect to begin construction in the next 13 to 14 months, but residents and local medical officials wonder where the new hospital will find the physicians and the money to pay them. Maui News.

The developer of the planned Maui Medical Plaza next to the Kanaha Pond Wildlife Sanctuary has avoided Maui County's threat of foreclosure on the project's 2.5 acres adjacent to Hana Highway. Maui News.

The Maui County Clerk's Office received letters Tuesday objecting to two mayoral candidates - Neldon Mamuad and Nelson Waikiki Jr. Maui News.

The Maui County Council's Budget and Finance Committee is making changes to the circuit breaker tax credit program and may extend the credit application deadline to Sept. 15 for this upcoming tax year to allow for more to qualify under the committee's proposed changes. Maui News.

Kauai

If those behind a charter amendment aimed at regulating the island’s agrochemical industry want it to appear on the ballot in November, they will have to start over. That means recollecting 2,037 voter signatures, this time by July 2. Kauai County Clerk Ricky Watanabe rejected Kauai Rising’s petition, citing technical errors because the group failed to follow the proper format. Garden Island.

Large agriculture companies and landowners are opposing a bill that would establish “agronomics” as a new and separate real property tax class and exclude lands used primarily for crop research or parent seed production from the county’s definition of “agricultural use.” Garden Island.

There may be a new selection process for an outgoing County Council member the next time around. The Kauai County Council approved a resolution on Tuesday that would let county voters decide whether the process to fill a vacancy on the seven-member board should be changed. Garden Island.

The Kauai County Council struck down a pair of charter amendment proposals on Tuesday that would have let county voters weigh in on the seven-member board’s fee-setting authority at the Wailua Golf Course and eligibility requirements for county Cost Control Commission members. Garden Island.