Monday, April 13, 2015

University of Hawaii walkout planned today against Thirty Meter Telescope, thousands pack Iolani Palace in protest, Legislature enters final week for bills, geothermal could bring in big bucks, Hawaii County Council pCards regulated, sex traffic bills could die, Honolulu rail contracts secret, Hawaii Obamacare hurting, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

photo by Josh Gainey
Iolani Palace Mauna Kea TMT protest, courtesy Josh Gainey #BePhenomenal2015
An estimated 3,000 people packed the Iolani Palace grounds Sunday afternoon for a rally that marked the largest gathering on the issue on Oahu to date as opposition continues to intensify against construction of a massive telescope atop Mauna Kea on Hawaii Island. Star-Advertiser.

Thousands of people flooded Iolani Palace on Sunday to show their opposition of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Mauna Kea. Hawaiian activist Walter Ritte says about 3,500 people showed up for the seven-hour long event. Hawaii News Now.

courtesy photo Josh Gainey
TMT protest Josh Gainey #BePhenomenal2015

When Gov. David Ige declared a cooling-off period amid the tense standoff between developers of the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope and self-described protectors of the sacred summit area of Mauna Kea — a postponement of scheduled construction subsequently extended by the contractors themselves — it marked a significant if tentative victory for a homegrown movement whose grass roots spread as broadly across the Internet as they do deeply into Hawaii soil. Star-Advertiser.

The protest over the construction of a large telescope on top of Mauna Kea continues. On Sunday, hundreds of people marched down South King Street in Honolulu to Iolani Palace, blocking lots of traffic on the way. Meanwhile, the Pūkoʻa Council, a Native Hawaiian group with representatives at University of Hawaii system campuses, has called for a system-wide walk-out among all “Native Hawaiian serving programs” on Monday at noon. Civil Beat.

The Native Hawaiian council of the University of Hawaii system has called for a system-wide walk-out among all Native Hawaiian serving programs on Monday, April 13, over the Thirty-Meter Telescope project. Hawaii Independent.

A Maui hālau was among several groups of hula practitioners that danced atop Mauna Kea on Friday amid demonstrations at the site against the controversial Thirty Meter Telescope, and an ongoing effort by cultural groups and concerned citizens seeking protection of the site from development. Maui Now.

Hawaii lawmakers are facing a legislative deadline this week to pass all bills out of the second chamber. Those that don't pass will die, at least for this legislative session. Associated Press.

Senate Health Committee chairman and physician Josh Green has amassed more campaign contributions than any other member of the Hawaii Legislature, tapping into a rich pipeline of donated cash from doctors and others in the health care industry. Now critics, including AARP Hawaii and the Hawaii Psychological Association, are crying foul — alleging that campaign cash and Green's position as a physician practicing at a Hawaii island hospital present unacceptable conflicts of interest for the lawmaker. Star-Advertiser

Anti-human trafficking advocates say Hawaii is the last state to ban sex trafficking and it’s time for change. Legislators are considering Senate Bill 265 that would treat people forced into prostitution as “victims” instead of “criminals.” Still, some say it’s unnecessary. KHON2.

Hawaii officials are scrambling to provide information to the federal government to satisfy concerns about financial problems at the state’s health exchange. All state-run insurance exchanges that are part of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act are supposed to be sustainable this year. But without an infusion of cash, the Hawaii Health Connector won’t have enough money for its operations. The Legislature hasn’t yet approved the organization’s request to issue $28 million in bonds or loans. Associated Press.

Oahu

Hundreds of contractors and consultants working on Honolulu’s $6 billion rail project are raking in tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds, yet there’s little accounting of what they’re actually doing for the money. Civil Beat.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell has stepped up law enforcement at the Wai­kiki pavilions at Kuhio Beach Park, which have been plagued by homeless campers, crime and drug use, and says he is considering converting more of them into commercial enterprises to reclaim the public beach space. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii

Hawaii County Council officials say there are strict procedures in place to prevent unauthorized use of county-issued credit cards, known as pCards. A West Hawaii Today analysis of 26 months worth of pCard statements and reimbursement forms showed very few personal purchases on County Council members’ pCards, and relatively prompt reimbursement when purchases were inappropriately charged.

Fourteen current and retired Hawaii County Fire Department battalion chiefs are suing the county, claiming their pay and benefits packages have not kept pace with counterparts and subordinates covered by the collective bargaining agreement. Tribune-Herald.

Could Hawaii Geothermal Plant Become a Windfall for Public? If power plant on Big Island were to start extracting valuable minerals like lithium on state-owned land, royalty payments should increase. Civil Beat.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs would have received a 5 percent stake in a 25-megawatt geothermal plant in exchange for a $1.25 million investment in the Huena Power Consortium, according to a due diligence report issued by Peninsula Real Estate Partners. The document, which the Tribune-Herald received through an alternate source after OHA declined to disclose records related to the failed investment, offers some insight into a deal that the OHA Board of Trustees agreed to in a closed-door meeting two years ago.

New legislation working its way through the Capitol could blunt the pain of converting from cesspools and septic tanks to a planned sewer line in the Lono Kona subdivision. West Hawaii Today.

The ethics complaint against embattled Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi will likely be heard May 13 by the Hawaii County Board of Ethics. KITV4.

There's no turning back for Mayor Billy Kenoi, the charismatic two-term mayor who now faces his own bitter waters of battle since revelations that he charged outings to Honolulu hostess bars and thousands of dollars worth of perks and personal expenses to his county-issued purchasing card, or pCard. Star-Advertiser.

Maui

Maui County Corporation Counsel has been enlisted by Hawaii County attorneys to assist with legal matters involving an ethics complaint filed against Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi and his finance director over the misuse of Kenoi's county-issued purchase card, Hawaii County officials confirmed Thursday. Maui News.

Sales of single-family homes in Maui County soared 20 percent in March as prices for both single-family homes and condominiums rose by more than 5 percent, according to statistics from the Realtors Association of Maui. Pacific Business News.

Maui County has issued building permits for a six-story, eight-wing, time-share resort on 26 acres at Kaanapali's North Beach, with construction costs estimated to reach $304.5 million - the largest private building project on Maui in recent memory. Maui News.

Kauai

Alan Tang no longer has to pitch the concept of a creative technology center on Kauai. Garden Island.

A museum in Hawaii is preparing to open a treasure trove of artifacts from the shipwreck of a royal yacht sunk off the coast of Kauai 191 years ago. Star-Advertiser.

Molokai

Allowing more visitors, expanding educational opportunities and increasing park staff are among the proposed plans for the future of Kalaupapa National Historical Park on Molokai. Maui News.