Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Affordable housing lacking, Kaiser strike looming, Maui in trouble over injection wells, medical marijuana hearings begin, Coco Palms permits deferred, tempers flare over military meeting, geothermal drilling at issue, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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The cost of renting a home in Hawaii has jumped at least 10 percent over the past two years, according to a new study. And given the lack of construction of affordable units, the state’s housing crisis is projected to get worse. Civil Beat.

Hawai’i’s need for more affordable rental housing was the subject  of a briefing today before a Joint Legislative Housing Committee. Hawaii Public Radio.

Hawaii housing officials are reminding lawmakers that low-income families need more affordable housing. Associated Press.

Workers at Kaiser Permanente’s hospital and clinics in Hawaii plan to strike for six days beginning Feb. 2, the union representing them said Friday. Associated Press.

Kaiser Permanente Hawaii will temporarily close down 10 of its smaller clinics on Oahu and the neighbor islands during a planned six-day strike by nearly 1,900 union workers, or about 43 percent of its workforce. The state's largest health maintenance organization announced Tuesday that it will reschedule elective procedures and nonurgent appointments and close the smaller clinics while consolidating resources to its larger medical facilities. Star-Advertiser.

Kaiser Permanente Hawaii said Tuesday it plans to close 10 clinics on Oahu, Maui and Big Island and consolidate operations to its larger facilities next week, when unionized workers plan to walk off the job in what would be Unite Here! Local 5's first statewide strike in nearly 30 years. Pacific Business News.

Senate Committee Defers Public Records Bill. The Office of Information Practices objected to legislation requiring government agencies to maintain public records better. Civil Beat.

The Office of Information Practices, the agency responsible for making sure state officials and agencies are complying with open meeting and public records requirements of state law, is looking for a new home. Top on the wish list seems to be an administrative base where OIP can enjoy independence from undue political interference, and also minimize the inevitable conflicts that come from being part of state government while at the same time trying to hold state agencies and departments accountable. Civil Beat.

The state attorney general is asking the Legislature to pay more than $1 million to a former prison inmate who claims he became infertile because state prison doctors failed to properly treat him for an infection, and more than $450,000 to a woman whom a state jury found was sexually assaulted by a guard at the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility. Star-Advertiser.

Randy Iwase, the man who may be in charge of helping to shape Hawaii's energy scene came out of retirement because he believes he and other stakeholders have a duty to set a foundation for a sustainable renewable energy future for the state. Pacific Business News.

Opinion: Hawaii Needs An Effective Opposition Party. Republicans need a new strategy — and soon — if they're going to be the balancing political voice this state sorely needs. Civil Beat.

Volunteers are surveying the number of homeless people in Hawaii, counting those living in shelters or on the streets. The annual Point-in-Time count started Monday and will be conducted through Friday. Associated Press.

Living Hawaii: Who Can Afford to Retire in the Islands? Civil Beat.

Oahu

Tempers flared at a military meeting in Waikiki Tuesday night as Army leaders from the Pentagon invite the public to express how much of an impact a possible troop reduction in Hawaii could have. Hawaii News Now.

As the Army considers downsizing on Oahu, a theory making the rounds is that if Schofield Barracks and Wheeler Army Airfield close, the state would inherit lots of family housing and barracks for the public that could offset a housing crunch. Star-Advertiser.

U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii is holding two meetings, known as listening sessions, this week to get public feedback on possible troop reductions or restructuring here in Hawaii. Military spending is the second largest industry in Hawaii behind tourism. KHON2.

Under the $1.55 billion full funding grant agreement signed between the city, the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation and the Federal Transit Administration on Dec. 19, 2012, Honolulu must build an elevated rail line that’s 20 miles long, features 21 stations and has 80 rail cars. In addition, the rail line must open to the public by the revenue service date of Jan. 31, 2020. KITV4.

Hawaiian Electric Co. can safely connect almost 10 times the amount of solar generation the electric utility currently allows, according to a recent test sponsored in part by HECO. Star-Advertiser.

Opinion:  Stop broadcast license renewals for the Raycom Media cartel. The danger of the Hawaii News Now media monopoly. Hawaii Independent.

Hawaii

Big Island residents will be able to weigh in today on a number of administrative rule changes related to Hawaii’s medical marijuana program. Among the proposed changes are a new process for the Department of Health to consider approval of additional medical conditions to be covered by the state’s medical marijuana program; a new system of application processing, registrations, monitoring and disciplinary actions; physician requirements to participate in the program; registration of qualifying patients and primary caregivers; monitoring and corrective action; and procedures for maintaining confidentiality for patients and caregivers. Tribune-Herald.

Does Hawaii County’s nighttime drilling ban apply to Puna Geothermal Venture? That’s a question the County Council will grapple with again next week as the geothermal power plant in Pohoiki starts another around-the-clock drilling project to build a new well. Tribune-Herald.

Celebration hosted for Kona’s newest “lifeline” road. West Hawaii Today.

Residents of the Kona Ocean View subdivision finally have their water. But they will have to wait a little longer before the roads are put back together. The county Water Board on Tuesday agreed to add $183,150 and extend to Feb. 28 its contract with Koga Engineering and Construction Inc. so the contractor can repave subdivision roads that were in worse shape than first thought. West Hawaii Today.

Maui

For the second time in less than a year, a federal judge has ruled that the use of injection wells at Maui County's sewage treatment plant in Lahaina violates the federal Clean Water Act, a finding that could lead to a large penalty. Star-Advertiser.

A federal judge effectively ruled Friday that all four injection wells at the Lahaina wastewater facility are "illegal" and in violation of the Clean Water Act, leaving the county open to tens of thousands of dollars a day in civil penalties, a lawyer for a group suing the county over the wells said. Maui News.

Maui legislators and county officials said Hawaii Gov. David Ige gave a "very positive" and "pleasant" speech Monday morning at the state Capitol, though it was what he didn't say in his first State of the State address that caught some attention. Maui News.

Kauai

In what marked their first bid to rebuild the Coco Palms Resort, developers from Coco Palms Hui LLC were greeted on Tuesday with a mixture of praise and skepticism before the county board charged with approving the building permits for their $135 million restoration project. The County Planning Commission unanimously deferred any decisions on the project until their 9 a.m. meeting on Feb. 10, but not before residents and visitors alike shared their two cents on renewed efforts to restore and reconstruct the Wailua resort, which has been closed since Hurricane Iniki struck Kauai in 1992. Garden Island.

Hawaii Dairy Farms has submitted an environmental impact statement preparation notice to the state Department of Health for its proposed $17.5 million dairy in Mahaulepu Valley. It is the first step in moving forward with the study, which HDF has agreed to conduct voluntarily in light of public concern surrounding the project. Garden Island.