Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Mauna Kea telescopes to open facilities to public, Native Hawaiian election lawsuit in court today, Hawaii one of five states where graduation rate declines, Honolulu councilman wants to curb rail costs, Kauai fence keeps predators out, Big Island mulls local control of transient vacation rentals, more new from all the Hawaiian Islands

President Barack Obama looks at the moon through a telescope while talking with student Agatha Sofia "Sofy" Alvarez Bareiro during the White House Astronomy Night on the South Lawn of the White House, Oct. 19, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Astronomy Night at the White House. President Obama announces that leading observatories on Mauna Kea — including the still unbuilt Thirty Meter Telescope — will begin offering guided tours. Civil Beat.

The Mauna Kea Observatories and Imiloa Astronomy Center on Monday announced the Kamaaina Observatory Experience, a monthly event that welcomes Hawaii residents to the science reserve atop Mauna Kea to see telescopes and learn about the cultural and environmental importance of the mountain. Tribune-Herald.

High school graduation rates for most states continue to improve, but Hawaii was one of five states that saw a decline, according to preliminary data released Monday by the Obama administration. Star-Advertiser.

A federal court hearing will consider a lawsuit that wants to put a stop to an election process that's under way for Native Hawaiians. Associated Press.

A federal judge today will consider an injunction motion in a lawsuit that argues it’s unconstitutional to restrict voting to those with Native Hawaiian ancestry and that the state is improperly involved in the process. Associated Press.

State officials have ruled work covered by at least 99 private contracts -- to handle everything from groundskeeping to pest control -- needs to be carried out by state employees, a move that could cost taxpayers millions and create hundreds of new state jobs. Hawaii News Now.

Hawaiian Airlines is introducing a new design for the interiors of its Airbus A330 aircraft that adds seat-beds to the first- and business-class cabins but cuts the number of economy seats by 44 by adding 28 more "Extra Comfort" premium economy seats in the main cabin. Pacific Business News.

At Sea, Merely Observing Can Be Risky Business. Observers assigned to help make sure Hawaii’s fishing fleets follow the rules face the same dangers as fishing crews — and sometimes dangers from those they observe. Civil Beat.

For the first time, the Hawaii Interagency Council met under the leadership of a new Homeless Coordinator on Monday, and shifted some of its focus, thanks to a $1.3 million infusion. KITV4.

The state is going to spend more than a million dollars to help Hawaii’s homeless. KHON2.

Oahu

Honolulu City Council Chairman Ernie Martin wants to “stop the bleeding” on the rising cost of the city’s $6 billion-plus rail project by putting a cap on how much in general excise tax surcharge dollars can be used to build it. Star-Advertiser.

The City Council Zoning Committee gave tentative approval Wednesday to a developer seeking building waivers and exemptions in exchange for constructing a 45-story residential tower that will consist largely of affordable sales units. Star-Advertiser.

Trevor Ozawa, the councilman from District 4, which stretches from Ala Moana to Hawaii Kai, is pushing a bill to require cycle tracks to be placed on the city’s official Public Infrastructure Map before getting installed. Civil Beat.

A Honolulu City Council committee Monday deferred a bill that would tighten regulations on Oahu taxicab drivers after receiving assurances from city officials that they are already making improvements to the system. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii developer Peter Savio plans to submit a bid to become the master developer for 168 acres near the University of Hawaii West Oahu campus that will be turned into a university district, which will include a mix of restaurant, retail and entertainment options. Pacific Business News.

Restrooms, paved parking and roads, lighting, a bike path and sidewalks are among some of the improvements area residents would like to see at  a beach park in Ewa Beach. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii

Manta rays might be gentle, elegant creatures but state officials say the large number of boats and tour groups they attract has become a safety problem as too many people crowd around prime viewing areas off the Kona coast. The state Department of Land and Natural Resources announced Monday it is drafting rules for manta ray viewing areas at Makako and Keauhou bays that would create the first site-specific regulations for the popular tourist activity. Tribune-Herald.

Their off-island owners see transient vacation rentals as investment for their retirement or a way to afford their own vacation stays in Hawaii. But the short-term rentals are a source of headaches for neighbors and frustration for on-island companies trying to manage property properly. West Hawaii Today.

Hawaii Health Systems Corp.’s East Hawaii Region could face another $7 million shortfall next fiscal year and the possibility of more painful budget cuts, administrators told state legislators Monday. Tribune-Herald.

The Mohouli Heights Senior Neighborhood is getting ready to expand with the planned addition of 30 new units. The existing 60-unit senior housing project on Mohouli Street in Hilo opened in April 2014 and has a waiting list of more than 400 people, said Keith Kato, Hawaii Island Community Development Corporation executive director. Tribune-Herald.

Maui

Maui Rep. Angus McKelvey, one of the most influential Democratic leaders in the state House of Representatives, has been charged with two misdemeanor offenses in connection with the handling and reporting of campaign donations. Star-Advertiser.

State Representative Angus McKelvey, D-West Maui, is in hot water over irregularities with his 2014 campaign spending, according to complaint filed last week by the state Attorney General’s office and numerous media reports. Maui Time.

Appointments are being taken for a household hazardous waste collection event Nov. 21 and 22 in Central Maui. Maui News.

Kauai

Fifty miles north of the Hawaiian island of Kauai, more than a mile below the ocean surface, lies a dark, watery graveyard of ships. Since 1999, 52 vessels have reached their final resting place here as part of SINKEX, the Navy’s ship sinking program. Civil Beat.

Predator-proof protection. $300K fence safeguards endangered seabirds by creating a sanctuary at Nihoku. Garden Island.