Thursday, April 30, 2009

Top Hawaii Headlines: Thursday morning edition

In a compromise that could help candidates for governor in 2010 with fundraising, state House and Senate negotiators agreed yesterday to relax a limit on Mainland political contributions.

Legislative leaders are saying a plan to take the hotel room tax money from the counties might not be needed and that lawmakers might not be able to override a veto anyway.

A "handful" of suspect patients in Hawai'i have been cleared for swine flu, including one who had traveled to Mexico, state epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park said at a Capitol press conference yesterday.

The Caltech Institute of Technology is expected to announce on Thursday plans to decommission the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory.

Fire investigators ruled the house fire in Makiki that killed two people last week was intentionally set.

Maui County visitor traffic in March plunged 25.8 percent from the same month a year ago, to 168,546, according to the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.

A swarm of some 300 to 400 community members converged Wednesday at the doors to the Kaua‘i Community College One Stop Center for a job fair where pickings were slim.

Divers have begun the task of collecting, storing and relocating coral that was dislodged when a 9,600-ton warship ran aground off the reef runway in February.

It costs taxpayers more than $3 million a year. But unlike other purchases made by Hawaii County government, the leasing of private property doesn't have to go out to bid and the county can pay more than appraised value.

Kulani Correctional Facility inmates can breathe easier now -- on the taxpayer's dime.

The eighth annual Free Comic Book Day is coming Saturday, May 2 to eleven public libraries on Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island.

It's a unique organization uniting island video-gamers. Members meet face-to-face instead of competing with one another online.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Top Hawaii Headlines: Wednesday morning edition

"A handful" of people in the Islands — including one arriving from Mexico — are being tested for swine flu, state health officials said yesterday. None of the cases has been confirmed, state epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park emphasized yesterday at a Capitol press conference.

The Lingle administration is giving public employee unions until Friday to accept furloughs of up to 37.5 days a year or face unilateral action by the state, according to state union leaders.

Hawaii's visitor arrivals plummeted 16.6 percent in March, which marked a full year of declines for the state's lead tourism industry, according to preliminary research released today by the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism.

Puna Rep. Faye Hanohano has mailed 1,200 newsletters accusing the University of Hawaii of desecrating Mauna Kea by allowing telescope development on the sacred summit.

A federal judge has sentenced a 27-year-old man from Washington who police said was the head of a conspiracy to distribute cocaine on the Big Island.

Clear Channel Radio Hawaii on Tuesday announced it is changing some of its radio personality teams and letting go some others.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has put Lanai City on its list of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. The old section of Lanai City, built for pineapple workers in the 1920s, is described as "the last remaining intact plantation town in Hawaii," by Richard Moe, president of the National Trust.

The Maui County Council Budget and Finance Committee on Monday voted 7-0 to recommend a $549.7 million budget for 2010, with cuts in spending that reflect the county's tight economy.

The prospect of using sugar cane to produce ethanol and electricity remains uncertain for Gay & Robinson Inc. as financial concerns force the historic Westside company to seek out a different crop. Corn is in.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Top Hawaii Headlines: Tuesday morning edition

The Hawaii State Department of Health issued an alert to doctors statewide on Monday urging them to watch for swine flu in patients.

Hawai'i would get 300,000 doses of flu medicine if swine flu should reach the Islands, but state officials yesterday encouraged everyone to start making plans now to care for the elderly and the young for a potential outbreak.

Tourism officials in the islands said Hawaii is well positioned to offer an alternative to Mexico, where the swine flu appears to be concentrated.

State House and Senate budget negotiators agreed last night to use federal stimulus money meant for public education to help offset spending cuts to the state Department of Education rather than use the money to help close the state's budget deficit, as Gov. Linda Lingle has suggested.

State legislative leaders are moving into the last five days of the 2009 Legislature with no clear plans on how they will resolve the state budget shortfall and what funds they will use to fill the budget holes.

While environmental groups rallied at the state Capitol in support of a measure to prohibit building any new fossil-fuel power plants in Hawaii, at least one renewable-energy advocate urged lawmakers to proceed with caution.

The Maui County Council Budget and Finance Committee on Monday voted 7-0 to recommend a $549.7 million budget for 2010, with cuts in spending that reflect the county’s tight economy.

Young Brothers on Monday asked to intervene in the Pasha Hawaii application to the Public Utilities Commission to use its trans-Pacific transporter, MV Jean Anne, to carry vehicles and cargo interisland.

Members of an Oahu family who have been waiting 10 years for justice expressed relief Monday, after a jury found the man suspected of killing their loved one guilty of murder.

Time is running out for the construction of two more remotely operated underwater vehicles.

The Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority is a landlord to roughly 40 tenants who use the facility for commercial and research purposes.

Federal stimulus funds will pay for a $7.3 million visitor center and replacement administrative building at the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Top Hawaii Headlines: Monday morning edition

Lawmakers in the House want to abolish the Hawaii Health Systems Corp. and temporarily move the 13 public hospitals back to the state Health Department -- a move Health Director Chiyome Fukino says would be "catastrophic."

The Legislature is on the verge of carving Maui Memorial Medical Center out of the state Hawaii Health Systems Corp.

No cases of the swine flu have been reported here in Hawaii, but health officials are asking doctors to send virus specimens from patients showing flu symptoms to the state lab for testing.

There's a shake-up at the state Sheriff Division. On Friday, word quickly spread that Hawaii's sheriff has been bounced from his post.

In what one survivor described as a "miracle," 11 sailors aboard a traditional Chinese sailing vessel that left Oahu in February were plucked from the Pacific hours after a freighter struck their vessel, slicing it in half.

Faced with increasingly dismal revenue projections, Hawaii County councilmembers have started using the "F" word again.

In the wake of a Makiki Heights house fire that left two people dead and four homeless, advocates are raising concerns about the number of people crowding into homes — in what they say is a trend that appears to be worsening because of the recession.

Reef-protection groups are awaiting approval of federal permits to install 52 day-use mooring buoys in a continuing effort to reduce the damage caused when boat anchors crush fragile coral colonies and destroy large swaths of underwater habitat.

A spike in the number of people giving up their pets is putting a strain on the Hawaii Island Humane Society

Friday, April 24, 2009

Top Hawaii Headlines: Friday morning edition

Ikaika Anderson wrapped up a short, costly race for the Honolulu City Council seat representing Kailua, Kane'ohe and Waimanalo by capturing the seat formerly held by his mentor.

The political dynamics of the Honolulu City Council are not expected to change with the election of J. Ikaika Anderson, observers say.

While most Hawaii residents said they have not been affected by the tourism downturn, a whopping 85 percent agreed that the state should do everything it can to bring visitors back to the state.

The residents of a hillside home in Makiki argued over a stolen moped just before the house went up in flames early yesterday morning, killing a man and a woman inside, according to the homeowner.

Nearly $8 million from the federal stimulus bill is headed to the Big Island to improve access and services in its national parks.

Hawaii County has received more than $1.3 million in stimulus money for workforce investment programs.

There's a most unusual farm on the leeward side of the Big Island. It doesn't grow anything, but it's taking a lot of heat.

BOE might review use of force at high school. A small Taser-mounted video camera captured the April 14 Tasering of a Keaau High School student. Campus security camera footage also recorded the incident.

Authorities said a 21-year-old Schofield Barracks soldier was critically injured Thursday morning after he was hit by a car in Wahiawa.

A $500,000 reduction for the Maui Visitors Bureau heads a list of proposed cuts in an austere budget being considered by the County Council that county departments and grant-funded agencies are not happy about.

The Maui Police Department calls state Rep. Joe Bertram III's criticism of its DARE program "offensive."

Kaua‘î has seen its fair share of development over recent years, yet as the island’s natural beauty fades away into a cloud of red dirt and bulldozers, one local nonprofit organization continues to help preserve as much open space as possible for the benefit of multiple generations to come.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Top Hawaii Headlines: Wednesday morning edition

Honolulu residents have been registering guns this year at a blistering pace that, if kept up, would result in 18,900 firearms registered this year, a possible 13.5 percent jump from last year, reflecting national trends.

Gov. Linda Lingle will sign a bill today allowing married couples and others to live in the same residential care facility. Currently, two non-Medicaid patients cannot live in the same adult residential foster home, even if the two people are married. But the bill will allow married couples, reciprocal beneficiaries, siblings, the parents of a child or best friends to do so.

Hononulu tries online voting. The Neighborhood Commission Office has entered into a contract with San Diego-based Everyone Counts, Inc. for online voting services in the 2009 Neighborhood Board elections, the city announced yesterday.

The House and Senate are expected to vote this afternoon on Senate Bill 1111, which would raise the state's 7.25 percent Transient Accommodations Tax 1 percentage point this year and an additional 2 percentage points next year to 10.25 percent.

Hawaii County must have really hated parting with a landfill bulldozer it sold as surplus in 2000. Hated it so much, in fact, the county's been leasing it back for almost $15,000 a month.

Just days after announcing in no uncertain terms that his office won't tolerate employees politicking on the Internet, Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi found himself defending the use of his own county address, e-mail address and telephone number to register his campaign Web site for mayor.

A bill in the state Legislature that would have banned pit bull dogs or puppies in Hawaii appears dead -- at least for this session.

The University of Hawaii Warrior football team is in their final week of spring practice, and so far, head coach Greg McMackin is pleased with the overall progression of the entire squad, including the secondary unit who entered spring with a big question mark.

If you are seriously delinquent in paying your taxes, look out. On Friday, the state Department of Taxation will post the names of the biggest tax delinquents in the state on the Internet.

Second Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza has ruled there's no constitutional right to engage in recreational dancing, dismissing a lawsuit by a group that has challenged a Maui County Department of Liquor Control rule on dancing in bars. Maui Dance Advocates and its president, Ramoda Anand, filed the lawsuit over the rule that prohibits dancing in businesses that serve alcohol, unless there's a designated dance floor in an area where alcohol isn't consumed.

James Pflueger made his first physical appearance in a Kaua‘i courtroom Tuesday, sitting in the gallery alongside family and friends as a handful of his attorneys argued a pair of motions in the manslaughter case stemming from the Ka Loko Reservoir Dam breach three years ago.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Top Hawaii Headlines: Tuesday morning edition

  • What, me worry? I live in Hawaii. The islands' laid-back charm and no-rush attitude are known around the world, but a new study may confirm what residents have known all along — Hawaii is the least-stressed state in the nation.
  • When informed he had been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry on Monday morning, Maui resident W. S. Merwin described the experience as "lovely."
  • A draft of a state audit is the latest problem for the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, already beset by an investigation into alleged criminal misconduct and a legislative attempt to dismantle the agency.
  • A proposed 50 percent surcharge on fireworks could cut sales and ease the concerns of the state's estimated 154,000 lung disease suffers, who often dread the smoky New Year's and Fourth of July celebrations. But the state's largest wholesaler of fireworks warns that a tax of that magnitude could put it and many of its competitors out of business and encourage the use of consumer aerials and other illegal fireworks.
  • This week, Hawaii Air Guard crew chiefs and mechanics got to see one of the 20 F-22s they will receive. The 6-year-old Raptor from the 525th Fighter Squadron at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska made a brief stop at Hickam on its way home from Kadena Air Base on Okinawa. By 2011 the squadron will have 20 of the single-seat F-22 Raptors, which it will share with pilots from the Air Force's 531st Fighter Squadron. It will be the only F-22 Raptor squadron in the Air Force led by the Air National Guard.
  • Students at Roosevelt and McKinley high schools in Honolulu will see a drug-sniffing dog this week in a prelude to regular visits whose goal is to detect illicit drugs, alcohol and gunpowder in common areas on campus. The Board of Education will hold a public hearing Tuesday to gather public input before voting next month on whether to allow random searches of lockers in public schools.
  • Budgets, buses and bugs will be among the issues Hawaii County Council members will discuss during committee meetings Tuesday in Keauhou. The Finance Committee's 11 a.m. meeting will also include lawmakers' consideration of Mayor Billy Kenoi's proposed $386.3 million operating budget.
  • Maui County Council members are deleting $18 million in transient accommodations tax revenues from the 2010 budget, planning around the expectation that the state will withhold the money it has shared with the counties for years.
  • With James’ Pflueger manslaughter trial quickly approaching, the car dealer’s attorneys and the state Attorney General are set to continue their legal wrangling in earnest in Circuit Court starting today. Pflueger, 82, has been charged with seven counts of manslaughter — one for each of the lives lost on March 14, 2006, in the Ka Loko Reservoir Dam disaster. He pleaded not guilty in January and the trial is scheduled to start in June.
  • We're always debating what to do for dinner. Here's an idea, a free burger at local Jack in The Box locations. The restaurant says its new mini sirloin burgers are the best in town and to prove it, they will give away one burger to each person that asks. The offer will be good through Sunday. At all Jack in The Box restaurants except in Hilo.
  • Monday, April 20, 2009

    Top Hawaii Headlines: Monday morning edition

    Sunday, April 19, 2009

    Wednesday, April 15, 2009

    'Tea parties' target taxes

    HILO -- Bearing signs saying, “Spread my work ethic, not my wealth,” “Stop the Spending,” and I.O.USA,” taxpayers rallied in seven Hawaii cities today to voice their displeasure over pending tax hikes.

    It was part of a national “tea party” day in more than 300 U.S. cities in protest of the annual income tax deadline. Thousands participated across the county.

    Hawaii’s rallies were organized by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, The Hawaii Republican Assembly, Studio Ryan, Mac Mouse, Admor HVAC and Joe the Builder Inc.

    "The more Hawaii's taxpayers find out about what's going on in their government, the angrier they get and the more they want to get involved. That's why projects like the Hawaii Pork Report, and events like this are so vital," said Grassroot Institute President Jamie Story. "Government officials should know that we are watching and educating the community about what they are doing with our money."

    Hawaii is among the highest taxed states in the nation and ranks near the bottom in economic freedom, according to recent national rankings.

    "While taxpayers adjust their budgets just to put food on the table, the Hawaii State Legislature is raising fees for everything and is even planning a rise in the general excise tax,” said Paul E. Smith, President of the Hawaii Republican Assembly, which is helping to organize the event. “On top of all that, they increased their own pay by 36 percent! Voters should understand; without a great showing at the 2009 Tea Party, Hawaii voters will continue as economic serfs to the tax-and-spend politicians who control our government."

    State lawmakers, however, say raising taxes is probably unavoidable this year in light of an almost $2 billion revenue shortfall.

    “Raising taxes must also be part of the solution, and raising the personal income tax on the wealthiest of our society seems to be the best option overall,” said House Finance Chairman Marcus Oshiro, D-Wahiawa, in a statement.

    “As we consider all the options available to use, it's important for Hawaii residents to keep an open mind,” Oshiro said. “Taxes are not inherently evil. A tax system allows government to plan for and provide the infrastructure and the services needed for our society to function. That tax system, however, should not only be fair and efficient, but structured in a way that promotes healthy economic growth.”