Friday, March 20, 2015

Commercial real estate booming, judge extends moratorium on Maui GMO ban, Aloha Stadium needs $200M, fire chief suspends critics, over-budget Honolulu rail project seeks bailout, tech troubles Hawaii County, rats plague Health Department, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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Hawaii's commercial real estate market has moved from a rebound to full-blown boom, according to a tally of major property sales last year. Star-Advertiser.

Gov. David Ige earned the respect of his colleagues during his long, successful career in the Hawaii Senate, which an outsider might assume earned him political capital to sway votes. But that wasn't the case during Ige's first major political test as governor, when most of the members of his old political faction in the Senate — the Chess Club — were among the majority of senators who planned to reject his nominee for Department of Land and Natural Resources before a scheduled vote on the Senate floor. Associated Press.

Unlike the Carleton Ching nomination for the director of DLNR, the confirmation of the director and deputy director for the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism passed committee and the full senate with no hang-ups. Hawaii Independent.

Department of Health employees say they're getting sick from unsanitary working conditions at their office, caused by an infestation of rats. Hawaii News Now.

The deadline for applications to fill vacancies on the state Ethics and Campaign Spending commissions has been extended to March 31. There is one vacancy on the Ethics Commission, and two on the Campaign Spending Commission. Star-Advertiser.

The number of visitors filling hotel rooms in January declined across all major islands except Maui, causing a dip in statewide occupancy. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii’s hotels had a good week last week, showing increases in both occupancy and room rates, according to the weekly report from Hospitality Advisors LLC and STR, Inc. Pacific Business News.

Oahu

The latest report from the independent contractor monitoring Oahu's public rail transit project echoes what rail leaders first acknowledged publicly in December: that despite their public assurances that the project would come in on time and on budget, the effort will "most likely exceed" what it was supposed to cost. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii lawmakers seem poised to bail out Honolulu’s over-budget elevated rail system, but they have yet to find the right tax formula. On Thursday, a state Senate panel approved a convoluted House measure that could extend Oahu’s 0.5 percent general excise tax surcharge for an additional 25 years. Civil Beat.

To keep Aloha Stadium operational for the next 30 years will cost $200 million just to address priority health and safety problems, a consultant told the Aloha Stadium Authority on Thursday. Star-Advertiser.

The Honolulu Ethics Commission has reaffirmed an earlier informal opinion by its staff that said Mayor Kirk Caldwell and other city officials were acting within the scope of their duties when they used city resources in an attempt to rally the community behind an effort to stave off possible downsizing of military troops on Oahu. Star-Advertiser.

Thousands of people have weighed in so far on the future of Ala Moana Beach Park. But many are asking – why not work on the things that need to be fixed now? KHON2.

Hawaii lawmakers’ latest attempt to swap urban state property for private farm land appears to be dead this legislative session. The Senate passed a bill earlier this month that proposed spending $400,000 next fiscal year to investigate the possibility of acquiring lands owned by Dole Food Company between the North Shore and central Oahu that may be suitable for long-term diversified agriculture production. Civil Beat.

The buyer of the $8.7 million Hawaii beachfront estate known as the home of Tom Selleck’s 1980's television character “Magnum P.I.” — a Chicago entity with close ties to President Barack Obama — has "strong ties to Hawaii," the firm that represented the seller said Thursday. Pacific Business News.

A former program director of an Oahu transitional homeless shelter has been charged in the theft of more than $700,000 from her former employer. Associated Press.

Hawaii

The county has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on two audiovisual systems that were supposed to connect the West Hawaii Civic Center with the county building in Hilo. Four years after buying the system, the county in January finally tried to use it, only to find it doesn’t work properly and one of the warranties has already run out. West Hawaii Today.

Big Island Fire Chief Darren Rosario has suspended two battalion chiefs after they complained about his alleged mismanagement of the department. They've been on paid leave for four months -- and now are under investigation themselves for speaking out. Hawaii News Now.

There will be no changes this year to laws governing how Kona coffee and Kona blends are labeled. A House bill requiring that the origins of coffee used in blends be listed on the package — plus a provision that coffee carrying the Kona label have at least 51 percent coffee from that region — never received a hearing. West Hawaii Today.

While it never left Pahoa, the Puna Community Medical Center is eager to return to its home at the Pahoa Marketplace, said Clinical Programs Director Dan Domizio. Tribune-Herald.

Maui


A federal judge has extended an injunction blocking Maui County’s voter-approved moratorium on genetically engineered farming from going into effect for at least another three months. Civil Beat.

Lawmakers advanced a bill today to enable neighbor island hospitals to transition into public-private partnerships, beginning with Maui. Hawaii Public Radio.

The state House of Representatives approved its version of the state's biennium fiscal year budget Wednesday, including nearly $64 million for Central Maui capital improvement projects. Maui News.

The Maui County Council Land Use Committee recommended approval on Wednesday of community plan and zoning changes that would move the long-awaited Downtown Kihei project forward. Maui News.

The Kā‘anapali Beach Hotel and its twin resort, The Plantation Inn, have been voted “Number One Hotel with the Best Aloha Spirit” and “Number One Best Budget Hotel” respectively, by readers of Hawai‘i Magazine. Maui Now.

Kauai

When the maile lei to Kanikoo senior housing project was undone Thursday, 36 residents were already moved into their apartments at the site of the former in Lihue. Garden Island.

Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization, in collaboration with the Kauai Fire Department, Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife, and Kauai Civil Defense Agency, will hold community input meetings to develop a Kauai Community Wildfire Protection Plan. Garden Island.

An 11.78-acre slice of vacant, beachfront land set aside for the proposed Coconut Plantation Resort has new owners. And the buyers, who purchased it on Thursday at an absolute auction, didn’t have to look far beyond their backyard to find it. Garden Island.