Friday, April 15, 2016

Tent tourism crackdown, Hawaii congressman seeks protection from North Korea threat, Honolulu rail head says audit a 'joke,' no action on Maui mayor ethics complaint, counties beg state leaders for more of hotel tax, endangered monk seals returning to the wild, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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Hawaii lawmakers are taking aim at a burgeoning vacation rental market: online brokers offering up tents to tourists on the islands’ world-class beaches and public parks. The state Senate passed legislation Thursday cracking down on a growing — but sometimes illegal — trend of campsites advertised as vacation rentals on online lodging services such as Airbnb. Associated Press.

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen say that chemicals commonly used in sunscreen can weaken sperm. KITV4.

Gov. David Ige has selected retired high school principal Darrel Galera to head a team that will develop a blueprint consistent with a new federal law that gives the state more authority over public education. Star-Advertiser.

A congressman from Hawaii is getting worried by the fact that North Korea has recently tested its fourth nuclear device and launched a satellite. At a House Armed Services’ Strategic Forces Subcommittee hearing Thursday in Washington, D.C., Rep. Mark Takai, D-Honolulu, had questions for military leaders when it comes to protecting Hawaii from potential attack. Civil Beat.

The Hawaii Attorney General’s Office has submitted 17 claims totaling $10.6 million for state lawmakers to approve before the 2016 legislative session ends May 5. Civil Beat.

Resources have not kept pace with Hawaii’s rapidly aging population when it comes to ensuring the health and safety of residents living in long-term care facilities, according to health officials and state budget documents. But that could change this year. State lawmakers will be deciding in the next couple weeks whether to approve additional funding and positions for the Department of Health. Civil Beat.

The state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism released a report Thursday that offers a different look at just how diverse Hawaii is and the importance of English proficiency. The report shows 18 percent of the population is foreign-born, and more than 130 languages are spoken in the islands. Civil Beat.

A seventh annual report on government spending transparency places Hawaii in the middle of the pack. Hawaii received a C, according to Following the Money 2016, subtitled “How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data.” Civil Beat.

Seven healthy, endangered female Hawaiian monk seals are on Oahu preparing for their journey back to the wild. Within the next week or so, six of the seals will be returned to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Associated Press.

Hawaii hotels charged less during the week of April 3 through April 9, compared to the same week a year ago, according to the weekly report from Hospitality Advisors LLC and STR Inc. Pacific Business News.

Oahu

Dan Grabauskas, who heads the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, made a preemptive strike Thursday by criticizing a yet-to-be-released city audit expected to be highly critical of him and his agency’s handling of the $6.6 billion commuter rail project. Civil Beat.

Amid growing uncertainty and upheaval over rail, the transit project’s embattled executive director took the unusual step Thursday of going on the offensive against a critical audit report before its public release Saturday. Star-Advertiser.

HART CEO and Executive Director Dan Grabauskas has blasted a critical city audit of Oahu's $6.5 billion rail project, calling it a "joke," "ridiculous," and "flawed." Hawaii News Now.

Dan Grabauskas, CEO and executive director of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, says a city audit of Honolulu’s rail project is flawed and filled with inaccuracies. KHON2.

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The Marine Corps confirmed Thursday that it has officially concluded the search for wreckage and the 12 Hawaii Marines killed when two CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters crashed off Oahu’s North Shore due to unknown reasons Jan. 14. Human remains discovered during search operations led to the positive identification of nine of the 12 Marines, Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Tim Irish said in a release. Star-Advertiser.

A Hawaii agency has approved a development agreement with a New York developer to build a low-income Honolulu rental project that will include smaller, efficient units such as micro-units. Pacific Business News.

With news reports warning that the solar giant SunEdison could declare bankruptcy as early as this week, the fate of a trio of the company’s stalled solar projects on Oahu remains uncertain. Civil Beat.

Hawaii

A delegation including Mayor Billy Kenoi, County Council Chairman Dru Kanuha and Hilo Councilman Dennis “Fresh” Onishi, who is executive vice president of the Hawaii State Association of Counties, met Thursday with legislative leaders to appeal for a greater share of the transient accommodations tax for the counties. West Hawaii Today.

A bill to increase the speed limit on Saddle Road has cruised past both legislative chambers — but just how much of an increase, and precisely where, is still up in the air. Tribune-Herald.

Rachel Solemsaas is the top candidate to be Hawaii Community College’s next chancellor, the University of Hawaii announced this week. Board of Regents’ Vice President for Community Colleges John F. Morton recommended Solemsaas from a pool of four candidates who flew in last month for interviews and a public open forum. Tribune-Herald.

Island Air is rekindling service to Kona following a four-year hiatus from the Big Island market. Starting June 14, five daily flights between Kona International Airport and Honolulu will offer 320 more seats daily to a market where travelers have complained about high fares and not enough competition. West Hawaii Today.

Maui

The Maui County Board of Ethics will take no action on a letter submitted by a Kihei resident seeking more information from Mayor Alan Arakawa about possible income from his holdings in Arakawa Farms and three Omaopio Road parcels. Maui News.

Rate increases proposed by Mayor Alan Arakawa's administration are "substantial" but may prove necessary to keep up with rising department operating costs, Maui County Council members said Wednesday while reviewing the mayor's proposed fiscal year 2017 budget. Maui News.

Hawaii’s largest public workers union is lobbying lawmakers for severance payments and special retirement bonuses for employees at the state-run Maui and Lanai hospitals that could cost the state $40 million or more if Gov. David Ige’s administration succeeds in privatizing those hospital operations. Star-Advertiser.

Mayor Alan Arakawa is asking Maui farmers to "step up" and grow food on Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar's 36,000 acres that could be left barren after the company ends sugar cane operations at the end of the year. Maui News.

The state Board of Land and Natural Resources has issued an order directing A&B and subsidiary East Maui Irrigation Company to “commence the environmental review process in support of A&B’s application for a lease of water from the license areas of Honomanu, Keana, Huelo and Nahiku.” Civil Beat.

Four candidates vying for the head of the county Department of Liquor Control are planned to be re-interviewed, "very tentatively," on May 24, by the Liquor Control Commission, an official said Wednesday. Maui News.

Kauai

Women call for ‘Equal Pay Day’ Locals highlight wage inequality during gathering in Lihue. Garden Island.

Lloyd Miyashiro said March through June on Kauai is babysitting season. That’s because he and the 100 other volunteers who keep an eye on Kauai’s monk seal population will be welcoming brand new pups. Garden Island.

Lanai

After Maui County's search for a private developer to build Lanai's affordable housing project turned up empty, Department of Housing and Human Concerns Director Carol Reimann said it's time to "regroup" and find other ways of bringing long-awaited housing to the Pineapple Isle. Maui News.