Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Visitor arrivals up but spending down, outsiders buy big percentage of Hawaii homes, hearings begin on NextEra sale of Hawaiian Electric, Kauai tackles B&Bs, more government and political news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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Kona luau at sunset © 2015 All Hawaii News
Visitor arrivals hit their eighth consecutive monthly record in October, but year-over-year spending fell because visitors generally spent less per day and on each trip. Total arrivals to the Hawaiian Islands grew 4.8 percent to 692,930 visitors in October, according to preliminary statistics released Monday by the Hawaii Tourism Authority. Star-Advertiser.

The number of travelers to Hawaii climbed 4.8 percent last month compared to the same month last year. The Hawaii Tourism Authority said Monday more than 690,000 visitors came to the islands in October. Associated Press.

The Public Utilities Commission and the state Consumer Advocate pressed Hawaiian Electric Co.’s chief executive Monday on the potential costs ratepayers could shoulder if Florida-based NextEra Energy Inc. buys the utility. Star-Advertiser.

A crucial stage of deliberations over the proposed $4.3 billion merger of NextEra Energy and Hawaiian Electric Industries began with a surprise announcement Monday. The U.S. Department of Defense, a huge consumer of electricity in the state, is seeking to withdraw from its intervenor status in the case, saying it is satisfied that the merger would be in the best interest of ratepayers. Civil Beat.

NextEra Energy Inc. has no plans to place Hawaiian Electric Co. executives or other Hawaii-based officials on its board of directors if its $4.3 billion acquisition of the Honolulu-based utility to the Florida energy giant goes through. Civil Beat.

The Hawai’i Public Utilities Commission started nearly two weeks of hearings today on the proposed sale of the state’s largest electricity provider. Hawaii Public Radio.

Groups in support and opposition of NextEra Energy Inc.’s proposed purchase of Hawaiian Electric Industries rallied around the Neal S. Blaisdell Center Monday morning as state regulators began the trial-like hearings to investigate whether the $4.3 billion sale is in the public interest. Star-Advertiser.

The first day of hearings in the proposed acquisition of Hawaii’s electric utilities consisted of questioning of Hawaiian Electric Co. President and CEO Alan Oshima. Tribune-Herald.

The monthlong Hawaiians-only election that was to end Monday has been extended three weeks. Nai Aupuni, the organization that is holding the election — one that could lead to a path toward Native Hawaiian self-governance — took the action three days after a court injunction halted any counting of the votes. Civil Beat.

A Supreme Court order halting the counting of ballots in an election for Native Hawaiian sovereignty has prompted an extension of the voting period by another three weeks. Garden Island.

The Board of Education is holding a “charter school listening tour” and exploring the possibility of creating additional charter school authorizers, after complaints from school leaders about a state commission created three years ago to improve charter accountability. Civil Beat.

The Hawaii Health Connector will end operations on Friday instead of today as originally expected, a state official said Monday. Star-Advertiser.

State computers crashed on Cyber Monday, but apparently it wasn’t because too many workers were searching the Internet for bargains. State Chief Information Officer Todd Nacapuy said the state’s mainframe was down because of a power failure caused during routine maintenance to the system’s backup power supply. Star-Advertiser.

The state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism released its first report on Hawaiʻi home buyers, saying about 47% of neighbor island homes were sold to out-of-state residents, while only 15% of Oʻahu homes were sold to out-of-state residents. Maui Now.

Oahu

City officials said Monday they are taking steps to ensure essential services to 35 residents of Mapele Road after heavy rain washed away a section of the roadway, making it impossible for refuse and fire trucks to pass. Star-Advertiser.

As the number of Dengue Fever cases rose to 112 Mayor Kirk Caldwell held a news conference this morning to discuss what the city is doing to prevent a potential  outbreak on Oahu. Hawaii News Now.

Even though work on the Honolulu rail will continue through the holidays, drivers will be getting some traffic relief in just a few days. Rail officials say crews will still be working on the 20-mile rail line, but there won't be any major lane closures from Dec. 11 through Jan. 3, 2016. Hawaii News Now.

Walgreens has sold its flagship Hawaii store across from Ala Moana Center in Honolulu, along with the adjacent Heald College Building on Kapiolani Boulevard, to Los Angeles-based investment bank and wealth management firm Salem Partners for a total of $73.5 million. Pacific Business News.

Hawaiian Airlines on Monday announced plans to begin daily nonstop service between Narita International Airport (NRT) and Honolulu International Airport starting July 22, 2016. Narita marks the airline’s 11th international destination and its fourth destination in Japan. West Hawaii Today.

Hawaii

Hawaii County officials say they can save taxpayers $12.3 million by refinancing $270.2 million in bonds. West Hawaii Today.

Confirmed dengue fever cases continue to rise on the Big Island more than one month after state health officials first confirmed the presence of the mosquito-borne virus. West Hawaii Today.

The total number of confirmed cases of locally acquired dengue fever on Hawaii Island is now 112. The rise follows the long Thanksgiving weekend in which the reported case count held at 107. Big Island Video News.

Maui

Since 2008, more homes in Maui County were sold to people from the American mainland and foreign countries than to Hawaii residents, according to a state report. A new analysis from the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism covers trends in Hawaii’s housing market from January 2008 through September 2015. Civil Beat.

The Maui County Council’s Water Resources Committee is scheduled to take up the old “Show me the water” law during their Dec. 2, 2015 meeting. According to a Nov. 27, 2015 press release from the Maui County Council’s media office, the reason is to discuss a new bill–introduced by Councilmember Mike Victorino–that would repeal the old law. MauiTime.

The public is invited to celebrate the long-awaited grand opening of the Upcountry Dog Park in Makawao on Saturday, Dec. 5, beginning at 9 a.m. Maui Now.

A demonstration on the eve of the Paris climate summit barred a group of Maui residents from delivering sections of a mile-long lei Sunday, but the group remains steadfast in its mission to spread aloha to those affected by the recent Paris terror attacks. Maui News.

Kauai
Should you be able to rent out part of your property as lodging for tourists, even if you don’t live within a designated Visitor Destination Area? That’s the question that will be discussed at the Kauai County Council meeting on Wednesday.  Garden Island.

Visitor spending on the Garden Isle is on the rise thanks to a 5 percent year-over-year growth in arrivals through October. Garden Island.