Friday, October 10, 2014

Hawaii's 'Stairway to Heaven' could reopen, DLNR blasts Hawaiian Electric plan, gubernatorial and congressional candidates debate, Schatz, Gabbard mull lava escape plan, Honolulu rail transit plan advances, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

wikipedia public domain photo
Haiku Stairs, photo by Kirinwizard
An ad hoc community group formed to decide the future of Haiku Stairs released a report Thursday recommending that the popular attraction be reopened with access through Windward Community College's campus. Star-Advertiser.

A working group tasked with determining the best course of action for the Ha’iku Stairs said the status quo is not acceptable. The popular stairway in Kaneohe, also known as the Stairway to Heaven, has been closed for more than a decade. However, trespassers continue to climb the 3,922 steps. The 13-member working group recommended the city either tear down the stairs at a cost of between $3 million and $5 million, or “develop a managed access use plan.” KITV4.

For nearly 30 years, hikers have been denied legal access to Haiku Stairs, also known as “the Stairway to Heaven.” Now, there is a call to reopen the hiking trail, but only if all interested parties agree to a so-called “managed access plan.” KHON2.

The state blasted Hawaiian Electric Industries' new energy transition plan for being stuck in the past and doing more to benefit the utility than the public. The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, in an 86-page filing with the state Public Utilities Commission, registered its frustration with the utility, saying HEI is clinging to an old business model that is incapable of meeting the goal of moving Hawaii off fossil fuels and onto renewable energy.  Star-Advertiser.

Some solar customers who have been on the waiting list are finally getting hooked up and approved by Hawaiian Electric Co. But critics say the solar boom won’t last. HECO set up new regulations on solar last year that left a backlog of customers wanting to get on the grid and slowed the growth of the solar industry. KHON2.

National groups independent from the candidates are stepping up their attacks, especially in the close race for Hawaii governor. It’s the RGA versus the DGA — the Republican Governors Association versus the Democratic Governors Association. Civil Beat.

While repeating their stances on issues facing the next Congress, the candidates for Hawaii's 1st Congressional District also stuck to key campaign themes in a roundtable discussion aired statewide Thursday night on PBS Hawaii's "Insights." Star-Advertiser.

The University of Hawaii would be able to expedite tuition decreases under a proposal the Board of Regents budget committee advanced Thursday. Star-Advertiser.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs and a grassroots organization are using an online game to help get more Native Hawaiians interested in statewide elections. OHA and Kanu Hawaii created a game that allows voters to take an online quiz to see which candidates in the Nov. 4 general election best matches their own political opinions. Associated Press.

Oahu

City Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro defended his decision to let a grand jury decide whether a misdemeanor abuse charge should be made against a police officer in a highly publicized case. Star-Advertiser.

The firm creating Oahu's driverless train system might finally have landed a buyer, and that has rail board members seeking assurances that any upcoming sale won't disrupt or delay the $5.26 billion project -- which already faces other challenges to finish on time. Star-Advertiser.

The board overseeing Oahu's rail project voted unanimously Thursday to give Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation Executive Director Dan Grabauskas a new three-year contract, which, if signed, would take effect this spring with a 5 percent raise. Grabauskas' current three-year deal, which pays an annual base salary of $245,000, ends in April. The new contract would pay Grabauskas a base of $257,000 and make him eligible for a 3.5 percent raise in the subsequent two years. Star-Advertiser.

A company under state investigation for allegedly dumping thousands of gallons of oil products near Kawainui Marsh is now in the cross hairs of city inspectors. That's after a former employee came forward with new allegations that the company poured thousand of gallons of petroleum sludge into the city's sewers. Hawaii News Now.

A Hawaii technology startup company wants to let bus riders be better informed when their bus will arrive with real-time display signs at bus stops. Star-Advertiser.

Kamehameha Schools’ plan to redevelop nearly 300,000 square feet of its commercial properties surrounding Kahala Mall in East Oahu into primarily retail space is gaining some traction, with leases on five commercial parcels mauka of the mall expiring during the next five years, a spokesman for the trust recently told Pacific Business News.

Hawaii

Hawaii’s three major gubernatorial candidates each pledged to do more to empower educators at the local level during their first debate on the Big Island on Thursday evening. Tribune-Herald.

Governor Candidates Assure Hilo Voters on Disaster Preps, Recovery. After Tropical Storm Iselle, and with lava poised to cut off a key highway, Hawaii County residents want a governor who will help. Civil Beat.

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz told a large crowd in Pahoa on Thursday night that they're doing all they can to press the federal government to pay attention to the small town on Hawaii island being threatened by lava. Star-Advertiser.

U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard and U.S. Senator Brian Schatz addressed a packed crowd of more 500 anxious and concerned residents. They say their top priorities are ensuring uninterrupted postal service and the critical infrastructure needs of clearing Chain of Craters road -- which by all accounts will eventually become the only way in and out of the lower Puna district. Hawaii News Now.

The advancement of the June 27 lava flow appears to be slowing down yet again, potentially lengthening the time it could take to encroach upon Pahoa. Tribune-Herald.

West Hawaii residents tore into a proposed state water quality plan in Kailua-Kona Thursday night. Frustrations boiled to the surface, with people firing questions and not being satisfied with the answers they received from a state Department of Health official leading an informational meeting at the West Hawaii Civic Center. West Hawaii Today.

Members of the state Commission on Water Resource Management continued their investigation into a petition to designate the Keauhou aquifer as a water management area Thursday. West Hawaii Today.

Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald has appointed Margaret Masunaga as judge of the District Court of the 3rd Circuit. West Hawaii Today.

Maui

Acting Governor Shan Tsutsui signed a proclamation today declaring Oct. 9, 2014, as Līpoa Point Day in the State of Hawaiʻi. The Līpoa Point acquisition by the state effectively removes the threat of development, preserving the land in perpetuity for generations to come, and makes the way for the creation of a management plan. Maui Now.

Maui Land & Pineapple Co. retirees were able to breathe a sigh of relief Thursday after the state solidified its purchase of Lipoa Point for $19.5 million, which the company must use to fund pension plans for its former workers. Maui News.

The Maui County Council's Planning Committee advanced a bill last week that would regulate home businesses. Maui News.

Kauai

Debra Lee-Jackson, a taro farmer from Kauai’s Puna District, said her nonprofit Hui Ho‘opulapula Na Wai o Puna has spent the last year working to understand water conditions and uses in the area. The Hui, made up of a group of landowners, lessees, taro farmers, fishermen and native Hawaiians seeking to restore and preserve Puna’s watersheds, is asking the council to support, via a resolution, its petition aimed at having South Puna — known as the Hanamaulu sub-aquifer — designated as a Ground-Surface Water Management Area. Garden Island.

Subsistence fishers, lineal descendants of Hāʻena and community members from across Kaua‘i and the rest of the state testified in support of the Hāʻena Community Based Subsistence Fishing Area rules. Hawaii Independent.