Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Chinese tourists flock to Hawaii, Morita out as PUC chair, attorney general, two board members fight transparency, $25M Punchbowl improvements advance, Dems mull Johanson party switch, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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According to research by Hawaii Tourism China, Chinese visitor arrivals increased by more than 25 percent during the first 11 months in 2014. Civil Beat.

Hawaii's 2015 tourism campaign to leverage visitors’ social media content. Pacific Business News.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority is working with a golf course membership company to bring high-spending Chinese golfers to Hawaii. Associated Press.

The state's Public Utilities Commission chairwoman, Hermina "Mina" Morita, resigned from her position Monday. Star-Advertiser.

Mina Morita, the embattled chair of Hawaii’s Public Utilities Commission, has resigned, according to a press release from Gov. David Ige’s office. There’s no word yet on Morita’s replacement. Civil Beat.

Hermina Morita, who has played a major role in Hawaii's energy industry since becoming chairwoman of the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission in 2011, has resigned from her post, Gov. David Ige's office said Monday. Pacific Business News.

Hermina “Mina” Morita has resigned as chair of the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission, Gov. David Ige’s office said Monday. Garden Island.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige says he's accepting the resignation of Hermina Morita as the chairwoman of the state Public Utilities Commission. The governor said in a statement Monday Morita decided not to seek reappointment. Associated Press.

State Democrats on Friday will begin reviewing a request by state Rep. Aaron Ling Johanson to switch his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat. Johanson, who last month announced he was switching parties over philosophical differences with some members of the state GOP, goes before the Executive Committee of the Demo­cratic Party's Oahu County Committee to present his case. Star-Advertiser.

Two State Board Members Fight Release of Financial Disclosure Statements. The Attorney General has asked the Hawaii Supreme Court to delay a Circuit Court order forcing the Ethics Commission to release of the records. Civil Beat.

After arguments pro and con, a task force on health care for seniors took no position Monday on a legislative resolution that would require hospitals to instruct family members in the proper care of relatives who are discharged. Star-Advertiser.

Matson Inc., the state's largest ocean shipper, is lowering its fuel surcharge for Hawaii and other Pacific islands by 4 percentage points as bunker fuel prices continue to drop. Star-Advertiser.

The number of new foreclosure lawsuits filed in Hawaii through November stayed under 200 for a seventh straight month in the wake of a tweak to state law that took effect in May. Star-Advertiser.

Oahu

State housing officials want land developers to get creative and submit plans to redevelop a North School Street property, making a housing project featuring both low-income public housing and mixed-income rental units. Star-Advertiser.

The overtime costs incurred by the Honolulu Police Department to provide round-the-clock protection for President Barack Obama, his family and others traveling with him during his just-completed Christmas vacation have risen dramatically since the Hawaii native began spending the holidays here. Star-Advertiser.

President Barack Obama and his family just spent their Christmas and New Year’s holidays in Kailua. Now it’s time for taxpayers to pick up the tab. While the Obamas and friends who accompany them pay for their own private vacation home rentals on or near Kailua Beach, taxpayers foot a multimillion dollar tab for everything from a stand-by ambulance to the fuel for Air Force One. Hawaii Reporter.

Four Oahu nursing facilities have been hit with flu outbreaks since last week, leading to restricted visits and — in one case — a temporary ban on accepting new patients. Star-Advertiser.

After two waves of rolling power blackouts, Hawaiian Electric Co. said no further outages would be needed Monday night. Star-Advertiser.

After several setbacks, a plan to expand a revered final resting place at Punchbowl is finally moving forward. The Department of Veterans Affairs just awarded a $25 million contract to Nan Inc. Hawaii News Now.

Opinion: Rail Ends at Ala Moana, But Will Tax Go on Forever? Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell is being disingenuous when he claims extending a rail surcharge doesn't amount to asking the Legislature for a tax increase. Civil Beat.

Hawaii

A state senator says an idea floated by a Hilo attorney to use a helium-filled airship to take passengers over active lava could be a viable solution if Kilauea volcano’s June 27 flow crosses Highway 130. Tribune-Herald.

The Kamakana Villages affordable housing development would get a more secure water source, if developer Forest City Hawaii is successful converting an existing exploratory well into a production well. West Hawaii Today.

Hawaii County has issued a finding of no significant environmental impact for the construction of a central sewer system in the Lono Kona subdivision. The $6.5 million sewer project will be built mauka of Kuakini Highway in an area residents have dubbed “Hamburger Hill.” West Hawaii Today.

East Hawaii residents woke up Monday morning to find volcanic haze shrouding the landscape and a sulfuric smell and taste in the air, the odor reminiscent of a barbecue grill gone unattended too long. Tribune-Herald.

Maui

Partnership talks are advancing between the operator of three Maui hospitals and Hawai‘i Pacific Health. The news comes as patients continue to pack the emergency room at Maui Memorial Medical Center. Maui Now.

State hospitals on Maui are pursuing a partnership with the privately-run Hawai‘i Pacific Health. The state’s publicly-funded facilities have been struggling for years and plan to seek approval from the legislature. Hawaii Public Radio.

While single-family and condominium sales numbers were both down in 2014, compared with the previous year, prices continued to climb and the percentage of foreclosure and short sales fell. Maui News.

Kauai

Former renters of Kauai Kalani Apartments near Lydgate Park are suing condo developers  in 5th Circuit Court for unlawful evictions and retaliation. Garden Island.