Monday, March 2, 2015

Hawaiian Electric Co. barred from denying solar applications, excise tax surcharge advances, Calvin Say cleared, police kill, injure civilians during busy Big Island weekend, Honolulu, Hawaii County, Kauai mayors offer basic budgets, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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Solar panels in Hilo © 2015 All Hawaii News
The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission says Hawaiian Electric Co. can’t deny rooftop solar applications for any reason except technical difficulties. An agreement signed Friday by commission Chairman Randy Iwase and electric company CEO Alan Oshima says the utility has a duty to approve photovoltaic systems. Associated Press.

The price of oil has plummeted by more than 50 percent since July, falling to its lowest point in six years and buoying the hopes of cash-strapped residents that they will see major reductions in their electricity bills. But as statements covering February power usage begin rolling out, those residents may be disappointed by the relatively moderate dip in rates. Hawaiian Electric customers on Oahu, the Big Island and Maui will still be paying two to three times the national average for electricity. Civil Beat.

A proposal in the state Legislature that would give all Hawaii counties the opportunity to enact a 0.5 percent surcharge for public transportation projects on top of the 4 percent general excise tax is gaining some traction. Garden Island.

A Hawaii senator who is backed by the state’s powerful police union hit the brakes on a bill Friday that would have made public the names of officers suspended for misconduct. Civil Beat.

A coalition representing Native Hawaiian homesteaders has created a plan outlining ways to improve the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. Their plan calls on the state government to fully fund the department, which is responsible for administering the Hawaiian Home Lands Commission Act. Associated Press.

A special panel of state lawmakers decided that Rep. Calvin Say meets the qualifications to serve in the House of Representatives, saying there was no compelling evidence behind a group of voters’ claims that Say doesn’t live in the district he represents. The House committee had been formed to investigate the latest challenge to former Speaker Say’s residency. Associated Press.

The commanding officer of the Pearl Harbor-based Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS Mississippi was relieved of his duties Friday due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command, the Navy said. Star-Advertiser.

Opinion: A controversial staff hire and her persistent digs at the president have caused many to question U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. Whether the criticism endures depends in large part on her. Civil Beat.

Oahu

After delivering a no-frills State of the City speech last week, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell will likely submit an equally low-key budget package to the City Council on Monday. Star-Advertiser.

The Honolulu City Council is seeking qualified applicants for the vacant post of city clerk. Former City Clerk Bernice Mau retired last year. Glen Takahashi, assistant city clerk, has been acting clerk since then. Star-Advertiser.

The Kokua Kalihi Valley Comprehensive Family Services has received a $246,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for its programs that assist Hawaii public housing residents. Pacific Business News.

Hawaii

Union-negotiated pay hikes and federal and state mandates contributed to a workaday county budget expected to rise 4.3 percent to $434.7 million next year. The 2015-16 spending plan released by Mayor Billy Kenoi late Friday has few new frills, projects or services. West Hawaii Today.

A 31-year-old Hilo man is hospitalized in critical condition after a police-involved shooting late Saturday night in downtown Hilo, police said. Lt. Greg Esteban said two officers were involved in the shooting, which occurred on the Kilauea Avenue extension in downtown Hilo, shortly before midnight. Tribune-Herald.

A 63-year-old Michigan man was killed Sunday after being struck by an on-duty Hawaii Police Department officer in what the Hawaii County Fire Department described as a hit-and-run incident on Waikoloa Road in South Kohala. West Hawaii Today.

Following an outcry from local landscapers, Hawaii County has postponed implementing a program requiring commercial operators to haul their green waste to the landfills rather than dumping it at transfer stations. The program, originally slated to go into effect Monday, won’t be implemented until July 1. West Hawaii Today.

Maui

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is apparently looking into whether the Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. plantation is operating in compliance with federal clean air regulations. The agency sent a seven-page letter to the state's last remaining sugar grower Nov. 24, asking for documents and records about its biomass energy plant and cane burning operations. Star-Advertiser.

In a sign of Maui's worsening doctor shortage, Maui Memorial Medical Center is working on a contract with Kaiser Permanente to have its pediatricians cover patients at the hospital after private physicians told hospital officials they would no longer provide the service as of May 1. Maui News.

Alarm bells were rung again at the state Capitol on Friday, warning of the dire financial condition of Maui Memorial Medical Center and the Maui region of Hawaii Health Systems Corp. Maui News.

By early next month, a 40-bed skilled nursing and intermediate care facility may get the green light from the state to begin construction at the Maui Research and Technology Park in Kihei. Maui News.

Cary & Eddie's Hideaway Restaurant and Bar served its final last call Saturday night after being a mainstay eatery on Maui for 15 years. Maui News.

Rules for drones proposed. Maui enthusiasts offer differing opinions on FAA regulations. Maui News.

Kauai

Kauai County will start to charge property owners for garbage pickup based on the size of their trash bin. Mayor Bernard P. Carvalho, Jr. says the county is trying to reduce the waste going to the landfill. Associated Press.

County Managing Director Nadine Nakamura and Ernest Barreira, county assist procurement officer and budget team leader, presented the mayor’s budget analysis and recommendations at the Kauai Police Commission meeting Friday. The mayor intends to spread $8.2 million in cuts across all departments, agencies and offices. Garden Island.

For a little more than two decades, efforts have been made to divert not just discarded items but especially green waste from the Kekaha Landfill. Garden Island.