Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Protesters halt telescope construction, feds approve NextEra-Hawaiian Electric deal, fire captain investigated for talking to media, VA office falsified benefit claims, Caldwell blasted at rail meeting, Kauai backs off B&B law, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

courtesy Occupy Hilo media
Mauna Kea TMT blockade, courtesy Occupy Hilo Media
Construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope ground to a halt Monday as more than 50 protesters formed a roadblock outside the Mauna Kea visitor center. Calling the $1.4 billion project a desecration of the mountain, the activists marched back and forth across the Mauna Kea Access Road, making sure to stay within the crosswalk. Tribune-Herald.

Protesters on Mauna Kea are not allowing construction workers to access the summit of Mauna Kea. Crews encountered dozens of protesters on Monday morning who were blocking access to the construction site of the Thirty Meter Telescope. Hawaii News Now.

In a statement, the Thirty Meter Telescope project manager responds to today’s blockade of the Mauna Kea Access Road, saying construction crews “patiently waited for law enforcement to allow our workers the access to which they are entitled." Big Island Video News.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the sale of Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc. to NextEra Energy Inc., a step experts said was expected. The two companies announced the approval Monday. Star-Advertiser.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved the planned acquisition of Hawaiian Electric Industries by Florida based-NextEra Energy, according to a joint press released issued by the two companies on Monday. Civil Beat.

Federal regulators have approved Florida-based NextEra Energy Inc.’s proposed $4.3 billion acquisition of Hawaiian Electric Co., one of the major approvals needed to finalize the sale, the two companies announced Monday. Pacific Business News.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission signed off on the pending $4.3 billion sale of Hawaiian Electric Company to Florida-based NextEra Energy, sending the fight to the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission. Tribune-Herald.

A supervisor at the regional Veterans Administration office in Honolulu was manipulating data to make it look like the agency was processing veterans’ benefits claims faster than they actually were, according to a new report by the VA Office of Inspector General. The data manipulation happened last year when there was heightened scrutiny nationwide over how long veterans were waiting to see doctors. Associated Press.

A Honolulu Veterans Affairs supervisor improperly ordered staff to electronically tamper with 143 claims for benefits, allowing veterans to receive money for dependents who were not eligible, according to the VA's inspector general. Star-Advertiser.

This week, HPR is taking a closer look at ‘ōpala—issues surrounding garbage in Hawai‘i. We’re calling the series “Trashing Paradise”---and we begin with a look at some of the history of ‘ōpala in the islands…and some of the economic factors driving its future. Hawaii Public Radio.

Oahu

Mayor Kirk Caldwell, along with state lawmakers who soon will decide whether to approve a rail tax extension, faced a chorus of angst and frustration from residents Monday over the direction of Oahu's transit project. Star-Advertiser.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and his top transit official took their licks from a decidedly anti-rail crowd during a boisterous town hall meeting at Washington Middle School on Wednesday. Civil Beat.

A wealthy South Korean businessman who bought two Kahala beachfront properties was required to tear out an illegal seawall that was encroaching on the public beach. But the city has since given Lee Kun-hee, the billionaire chairman of South Korea’s Samsung Group, permission to erect a new wall just mauka of the state’s certified shoreline, which scientists say will exacerbate beach erosion. Civil Beat.

Video raises new concerns over animal care at quarantine station. Hawaii News Now.

In our continuing series, “Trashing Paradise,” we take a look at the only landfill on the island of O’ahu …home to 80 percent of the state’s population and vacation destination for more than 8 million visitors each year. Hawaii Public Radio.

Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth visited Punchbowl cemetery Sunday as the Pentagon considers whether to exhume the bodies of nearly 400 crew members of the USS Okla­homa buried as "unknowns." Many families of the Dec. 7, 1941, casualties want their relatives identified, and the Defense Department now has the scientific capability to make a majority of those identifications. Star-Advertiser.

Residents in Kahuku could see 10 new wind turbines as early as the end of this year. But, before the plan is put in place, the Department of Land and Natural resources needs to check its environmental impact. KITV4.

The state lost a round in court on Monday over a land dispute in Waimanalo. KHON2.

The state Public Charter School Commission decided Monday to temporarily reinstate funding for the troubled Halau Lokahi Charter School, allowing 60 remaining students to finish the school year at the Hawaiian culture-focused campus. Star-Advertiser.

In Honolulu’s Chinatown each morning, adventurous visitors and local residents have a fascinating new option: a walking tour though one of the most successful entrepreneurial business districts ever launched in Hawaii — the red light district of World War II. Civil Beat.

Hawaii

A captain in the Hawaii County Fire Department is under investigation by the chief for criticizing the department in public. Fire Chief Darren Rosario sent a letter Wednesday to Capt. Sean Sommers, telling him he was being investigated on administrative charges that he violated the department’s rules when he criticized the department and fire chief in a March 19 interview on Hawaii News Now. West Hawaii Today.

Maui

The head of Hawaii's largest public employee union sharply criticized Sen. Roz Baker for "bullying" rank-and-file union members who testified earlier this month against a controversial bill to privatize three Maui County hospitals. The Hawaii Government Employees Association said Baker treated members rudely as they gave testimony March 19 before the Senate Committees on Health and Commerce and Consumer Protection opposing a bill to authorize a private entity to assume control of the state-owned Maui Memorial Medical Center, Kula Hospital and Lanai Community Hospital. Star-Advertiser.

In an effort to better connect residents with county services, the County of Maui is now offering a free mobile phone app that would allow people to alert officials to non-emergency problems and then monitor how officials correct those issues, according to a county news release sent out on Mar. 30. MauiTime.

A state contract to improve and expand the Maui Veterans Cemetery has been awarded to F&H Construction, which submitted a low bid of nearly $4.7 million. Maui News.

Kauai

The County of Kauai said visitor accommodation providers who were faced with having to close because they lacked proper permits can continue their operations. Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. and planning officials met Monday to review the situation. Garden Island.

At the end of a recent corporate board meeting of the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation, one thing was clear: Kauai is likely now in the strongest position of all the regions as it enters the 2016 fiscal year on July 1. Garden Island.