Monday, May 2, 2016

Schools shortchange local producers, Legislature moves into final week, Kauai mulls vehicle tax hike, Big Island tax burden uneven, Honolulu Zoo rebuilds after accreditation loss, Maui explores new kind of governance, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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Hilo farmers market workers © 2016 All Hawaii News
The “buy fresh, buy local” movement has caught on at high-end restaurants and grocers across the islands, where customers are willing to pay a premium for locally grown fruits, vegetables, dairy and meat. That’s not yet the case in the public schools with their limited food budget, but the Farm to School initiative is gaining momentum. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii lawmakers negotiated final details on dozens of bills ahead of a major legislative deadline, rushing around the capitol and huddling in groups and trying to reach last-minute agreements. Associated Press.

In a frenzied finish to meet a 6 p.m. deadline Friday, Hawaii lawmakers negotiated agreements to pass a slew of bills out of conference committee and on to the full House and Senate for final approval next week. But they also left a lot on the table during an all-day marathon of meetings, and inserted last-minute amendments to effectively make other measures moot. Civil Beat.

It was do or die time Friday for bills that had not yet passed out of conference committees ahead of a vote by the full Legislature on Tuesday. West Hawaii Today.

Certain high-profile contested case appeals, such as the one that set back the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope, could come to a speedier conclusion under a bill nearing its final vote. Tribune-Herald.

Hawaii could soon have an independent review board to oversee all police killings and in-custody deaths to determine whether officers should face prosecution, although the board will not be able to force a prosecutor’s hand. Civil Beat.

Brian Schatz has $3 million in cash on hand for his 2016 re-election campaign — a formidable amount, politically speaking. Civil Beat.

The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands has taken steps toward acting on 15 of the 20 recommendations made by the state auditor in 2013, but has not actually implemented any of them, according to a follow-up report released Friday. Civil Beat.

Hawaii’s dependency on for-profit prisons on the mainland shows no signs of waning. Within weeks, if not days, the Hawaii Department of Public Safety is expected to award a new contract to continue housing hundreds of the state’s excess prisoners on the mainland for up to five more years. Civil Beat.

The Hawai‘i state health department has named the first eight licensees who will grow and sell medical marijuana. The winning companies now face the challenge of cultivating the product in time for dispensaries to open as early as July 15. Hawaii Public Radio.

Fire forecasters say Hawaii, Alaska and the Southwest will face an increased threat of wildfires this summer. Associated Press.

It’s curtains for Sports Authority. The Englewood, Colo., company will close or sell off its 450 stores nationwide, including eight stores in Hawaii, possibly affecting hundreds of employees in the islands. Star-Advertiser.

Oahu

The 42-acre Honolulu Zoo is a tangle of construction, closed exhibits, broken pavement, dirty bathrooms, overgrown landscaping and dog-eared signage. Observers say that’s because years of internal feuding, political wrangling and unstable operations have taken their toll. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums recently pulled the zoo’s accreditation, which could result in the loss of some animals and hamper access to grant money. Star-Advertiser.

The Honolulu Zoo’s failed application for reaccreditation included internal memos from animal keepers expressing concerns about how shortcomings at the Waikiki attraction were endangering the welfare of its inhabitants. Star-Advertiser.

In a major blow to one of Gov. David Ige’s top legislative priorities, Hawaii lawmakers killed a measure that would have financed the relocation of the crumbling Oahu Community Correctional Center. Civil Beat.

Bishop Museum President Blair Collis Steps Down. The president and CEO of the financially troubled museum was being probed for taking a personal loan from museum funds. Civil Beat.

A Kapolei wood treatment company has been fined $33,750 for producing and selling a mislabeled pesticide on five occasions in 2013 and 2014, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii

If West Hawaii property owners feel sticker shock when they open their tax bills, they may have good reason. West Hawaii’s three council districts — home to a third of the island’s roughly 196,000 population — will be shouldering more than two-thirds of the property tax burden this year. West Hawaii Today.

Mayoral candidates Harry Kim, Wally Lau, and Pete Hoffmann give short speeches in Kona during the Hawaii County Democratic Party convention on Saturday. Big Island Video News.

The retired judge who was selected to preside over the upcoming Thirty Meter Telescope contested case hearing is denying allegations that she maintains a bias in favor of the $1.4 billion project. Star-Advertiser.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources says it is responding to complaints over a seawall built on the shore of Hilo’s Lalakea pond. Tribune-Herald.

Democratic Party delegates, alternates, students and observers came together Saturday at Hawaii Community College Palamanui for the Hawaii County Committee Convention. West Hawaii Today.

Governor David Ige addressed the crowd at the Democratic Party of Hawaii County’s annual convention on Saturday, and he dove right into the nation’s political discussion. Big Island Video News.

Maui

The Special Committee on County Governance on Friday afternoon voted to recommend to the Maui County Council a council-manager system of government which would keep an elected mayor. Maui News.

Saying he wants to make way for upcoming changes, Wesley Lo will step down as head of Maui County's three hospitals and its parent regional organization on July 1. Maui News.

The head of Hawaii Health Systems Corp. is stepping down as the collection of Maui County hospitals is transferred to new private operators. Star-Advertiser.

Maui Land & Pineapple is under contract to sell a 304-acre planned workforce housing project in West Maui for $15 million to an undisclosed buyer, according to the company’s first quarter report. Pacific Business News.

The Hoku Nui Maui development proposes to combine market-priced and fast-tracked affordable housing, farming and a hula halau facility for kumu hula Keali'i Reichel's Halau Ke'alaokamaile on 258 acres abutting the intersection of Piiholo Road and Makawao Avenue and mauka of St. Joseph Catholic Church. Maui News.

Alexander & Baldwin has fully restored water to three of the eight streams in East Maui at Wailuanui as promised last month, but full restorations of the other five streams offer some logistical challenges that may take several months to resolve, the general manager of A&B subsidiary Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. said last week. Maui News.

Kauai

A bill that would raise the vehicle weight tax to fund road repairs will be considered by the Kauai County Council Wednesday. Bill No. 2613 was introduced by Councilmember JoAnn Yukimura. Garden Island.

A Hawaii businessman selected Friday to run medical marijuana dispensaries on Kauai is being sued in civil court for allegedly stealing more than $375,000 from a business partner last October. Civil Beat.

The heavy hum of several hundred honeybees got a little louder when John Nelson popped the top of one of six bee boxes at the Pacific Missile Range Facility. Garden Island.