Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Maui prison lacks support, Hawaii to help its Pacific neighbors, TMT moving forward, other top news

Gov. Linda Lingle is halting state plans to develop an estimated $235 million correctional facility at Puunene because the proposal lacks support from Maui Sen. Shan Tsutsui, vice chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

The Hawaii Air and Army National Guard will send 86 medical, search and rescue, and communications specialists to American Samoa this morning in the aftermath of a deadly tsunami that triggered alerts across the Pacific.

American Samoa's Governor Togiola Tulafono, who's in Hawaii for business, details the damage to the island as he heard from his office and Lt. Governor.

The Planning Department has scheduled a kick-off meeting this week to launch the County of Kaua‘i’s Important Agricultural Lands study, and introduce the staff of the University of Hawai‘i’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning that was hired to assist the county with the IAL study.

Hawai'i was one of only eight states with significant increases in the ranks of the poor during a year of recessionary pressure.

Parents said a state ethics opinion poses a major hurdle in hiring teachers privately to instruct their students during the 17 days when Hawaii public schools are on furlough because of budget cuts.

Architects and engineers met with the Thirty Meter Telescope team Monday in Hilo in the first step toward the construction of the support buildings.

Loss of jobs on land increases marine license sales

Saying a bill allowing people to live in tents while their homes are under construction stigmatizes Puna, Mayor Billy Kenoi on Monday wielded his veto pen for the first time

An uprising that included two members of Gov. Linda Lingle's Cabinet shot down a move to make the Maui County Department of Planning the recruiter, contractor and accepting authority for the environmental review for state and some private development proposals.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Environmental issues take top billing today

Years ago, while sailing off Coast Rica, I saw something so amazing, I sometimes wonder if, having seen pictures of the event, I just dreamed I saw it. But Craig was there and confirms the facts: Floating in the water, looking like so many army helmets, were thousands of olive-green turtles, ranging as far as we could see. Unknowingly, we'd sailed into an arribada.

A group of environmental leaders is meeting in Honolulu this week to develop a national policy for protection of oceans and lakes.

An abandoned lay gillnet recently removed from Kane'ohe Bay contained a macabre catch of the dead and dying: a 3-foot blacktip shark, slipper lobsters, uhu, kala and other reef species, and a collection of fish skeletons.

The state's Environmental Council has suspended all further meetings until the state provides it with a staffer to take minutes and resources for Neighbor Island members to participate.

Preserving Kaua‘i’s natural habitats is “remarkably important,” said science and environmental blogger Jan TenBruggencate, who served as moderator for the Lihu‘e Business Association’s public forum this week.

With the economy unable to sprout out of its slump, more and more people are turning to sustainable agriculture.

An influx of commercial activity has clogged the streets of the popular Lanikai community and prompted some fed-up residents to seek restrictions on one of those activities: beach weddings.

State Rep. Joe Bertram stands out among his straight-laced peers: He's a Hawaii legislator who wears sandals, advocates medical marijuana and same-sex civil unions.

The streets were jammed and the musicians were jammin' as thousands partied, island-style, at the 16th KWXX Ho'olaule'a held Saturday night in downtown Hilo.

From the air, it was a ribbon-shaped sea of pink. From the ground, it was hundreds of Big Islanders attempting a Guinness World Record to raise breast cancer awareness.

A very big and costly pest has placed state lands, Hawaiian home lands, public and private watersheds, golf courses, parks, ranches, farms and home gardens under siege.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Surf's coming up, Natatorium's coming down

A city task force voted yesterday to recommend a dramatic change to Waikiki's shoreline: The demolition of the 82-year-old Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium and creation of a beach in its place.

The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously forwarded the nomination of assistant U.S. Attorney Florence "Flo" Nakakuni to the full Senate to be the next U.S. attorney for the District of Hawaii, Sens. Daniel K. Inouye and Daniel K. Akaka announced yesterday.

The recovery process for the Hawaii economy is just around the corner -- by early next year -- according to the latest quarterly forecast by the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization.

Surfers are excited that the North Shore is seeing such early surf in the season.

The National Weather Service has issued a high surf advisory for north and west facing shores for the entire state in effect from 6 pm Thursday to 6 am Saturday. A northwest swell from a Pacific storm, former typhoon Choi-Wan is moving in today and will reach advisory level tonight.

Police say a man tried to cover up a vehicle break-in by claiming he'd witnessed a shark attack Wednesday off the coast of Hawaiian Paradise Park.

Puna Councilwoman Emily Naeole violated the county ethics code when she displayed thumbs-down gestures while members of the public testified about a proposed council reorganization, the Hawaii County Board of Ethics said Wednesday.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Kauai's last sugar harvest, University of Hawaii battles cuts, other state and local news

Gay & Robinson, Inc. announced Wednesday that “subject to favorable weather, the last sugar cane grown by the company will be processed by the mill in late October.”

Kauai Mayor Carvalho, Jr.'s Reaction: "I can't express how saddened I am for the employees and their families and for all of Kauai to see our last remaining sugar plantation close its doors for good. Although we all knew it was coming, that doesn't make it any easier."

University of Hawaii at Manoa colleges and departments are being asked to cut up to 6 percent more from their budgets because faculty labor contracts have not yet been settled.

The second attempt to pass a bill that would outlaw single-use plastic bags from the Kauai’s retail establishments came up short Wednesday, but frustrated proponents said they remain resolute and confident in their ability to push it through.

As coral reefs continue to die off from environmental stresses, including global warming, the Waikiki Aquarium has come up with a unique way to help preserve this pivotal part of the ocean.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs will eliminate 28 of its 178 positions as part of a new strategic plan outlined yesterday.

A 17-member task force formed to help the city decide the future of the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium remains highly divided going into its final meeting today, in which members will vote on whether the 82-year-old landmark should stay or go.

The federal government has issued a revised plan to protect the Laysan duck, the most endangered waterfowl in the country.

As the Pacific Tsunami Museum looks back on its 15-year history, it is telling that the first meeting of its board of directors was canceled due to an evacuation and tsunami threat from the Kuril Islands.

Economists use a bit of "alphabet soup" to create visual representations of economic downturns and recovery, says Hawaii Pacific University professor Leroy Lane.

The Maui Planning Commission denied three petitions to intervene in the Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa's $250 million expansion application Tuesday.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

She's no barbarian, she's a princess, teachers finally ink contract and other Hawaii news of the day

Native Hawaiians yesterday expressed anger at the decision to call a soon-to-be-released feature film on Princess Ka'iulani's life "Barbarian Princess," and some went as far as to call the title a publicity stunt and an insult to the young royal's memory.

Hawaii's public school year will have 17 fewer instructional days under a two-year contract ratified yesterday by the Hawaii State Teachers Association.

Hawai'i public school teachers yesterday ratified a two-year contract that amounts to a 7.9 percent pay cut and will shut down the school system for 17 Fridays beginning in October.

Hawaii public school teachers overwhelmingly voted on Tuesday to ratify a new contract that will include furlough days and a cut in salary.

O'ahu homeowners could get permits for new bed-and-breakfast establishments under a bill that won a preliminary 4-1 vote by the City Council's Zoning Committee yesterday.

A pair of controversial bills that would ease restrictions on Kauai transient vacation rentals on agricultural land and development near the shoreline have been deferred for one month.

Gas is an important source of heating for many island restaurants, and as the cost of this basic utility has gone up, many are finding it difficult to keep costs down.

Having turned down more than $7.6 million for Hamakua property at the height of the real estate boom five years ago, Hawaii County may be hard-pressed to find such eager buyers during the current sour economy.

Sugar prices are through the roof this year, but that will be of little help to Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co., which will have its sugar output reduced by drought to an estimated 125,000 to 130,000 tons this year.

A 2nd Circuit jury on Monday ordered the Fairways at Maui Lani developer to pay a total of $232,700 in damages to six of 11 plaintiffs who said construction of the project caused noise and nuisance and that workers trespassed on their properties.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Arts, homeless and honeybees in peril, other news

Leaders from arts organizations across the state say the loss of 10 employees — about one-third the staff — at the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts would be a destructive move that jeopardizes not just arts programs, but the economy and education as well.

It's possible to recycle nearly half of Hawaii Island's garbage, but achieving that higher diversion rate will cost taxpayers plenty, according to a $525,000 study commissioned by Hawaii County.

Homeless shelters are seeing an influx of people who have lost their jobs or seen their hours cut — a trend providers warn will only get worse as job losses mount and laid-off workers exhaust their unemployment benefits and savings.

A former acting Israeli prime minister will be a featured speaker at Tuesday's 6th Annual International Women's Leadership Conference hosted by Gov. Linda Lingle.

Hawaii schools soon could face furlough days -- 17 Fridays with no one working at the schools or drawing a paycheck. The savings would add up to about $5 million for every furlough day.

In just over a year's time, the varroa mite, an ectoparasite that feeds on honeybees, has spread from the Hilo Bay area north to Onomea and around south to Pahala, researchers say.

"We don't want nobody to give huhu," said ILWU business agent Wallace Ishibashi. "We agree to disagree on that issue...."

If you felt the earth trembling on Oahu, that was the U.S. Air Force putting on quite a show in Hawaii's skies.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The tax man cometh, unemployment up again, ethics coming to Hawaii County government

After living 18 days on a remote island in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Kekuewa Kikiloi is reveling in the "incredible" experience and still nursing sore feet from the rugged volcanic terrain.

Hawaii businesses to be hit with soaring unemployment tax

Hawaii's unemployment rate crept up to 7.2 percent in August, as the state's economic downturn sliced into jobs and more residents joined the ranks of the unemployed.

The University of Hawai'i said its best and final contract offer to union employees includes a 5 percent salary reduction, a payroll lag of five days at the end of this fiscal year in June and a reduction in the state's contribution to health insurance from 60 percent of premium costs to less than 50 percent.

Union leaders are urging about 3,200 University of Hawaii professors and instructors to reject the administration's latest pay cut offer.

It is too early to predict whether the furlough of all state deputy public defenders three days per month will cause a backlog of court cases, said state Public Defender Jack Tonaki.

Almost a year after promising ethics reforms if he won the top county job, Mayor Billy Kenoi this week proposed a series of changes to curtail county workers' most blatant conflicts of interest.

The Hawaii County Council this week started testing a new security procedure aimed at keeping the peace between lawmakers and the public they're paid to serve.

Hawaii County's coffers are running lower than usual because so many Big Island landowners didn't pay property tax bills due Aug. 20.

Automated trash pickup on its way to Kauai

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Shark tours, plastic bag bans moving forward, Hawaii residents buckle up, pay less for gas

A proposal moving through the City Council makes it illegal to operate shark tours on O'ahu.

Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. signaled his support for a stalled bill that would outlaw plastic checkout bags at retail stores across Kaua‘i, sending a letter to the Kaua‘i County Council that counters business community opposition that caused a deferral last week.

Hawai'i's seat belt usage tops the nation again and more people are buckling up here then ever before, the state Department of Transportation said yesterday.

Drivers in Hawaii aren't paying the highest gas prices in the nation anymore. That unwanted honor now goes to Alaska.

Alternative energy projects such as wind farms and solar power plants would be exempt from property taxes under a proposal passed by the Honolulu City Council.

Hawaii Mayor Billy Kenoi's administration and the County Council were looking at ways to increase revenue and cut costs even before Kenoi's announcement that next year's budget could be short $44.8 million.

Mayor Billy Kenoi met with his top officials Monday, telling them to prepare for "deep and painful" budget cuts.

A Hawaii County Council committee on Tuesday recommended the council not pass a bill designed to add another layer of transparency when the county sells real property.

Maui Planning Commission members recommended Tuesday returning a major development at Olowalu to the Maui Island Plan and restoring the Pulelehua housing project in West Maui to its full size.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

State elections chief in hot water, budget crunch hits schools, other top Hawaii news

Although she expressed serious concerns and a lack of con- fidence in the state Office of Elections' ability to carry out next year's elections, the head of the Senate's money com- mittee stopped short of saying the agency's chief should be fired.

A tentative agreement for public teacher furloughs could shorten the school year by as many as four weeks.

A state Board of Education committee rejected a more than 100 percent increase in school bus fares yesterday, but Schools Superintendent Pat Hamamoto said she will have to look elsewhere for the money that would have been raised, and "that creates challenges."

Hawai'i's health insurance premiums grew an estimated 3.7 times faster than worker earnings during the past decade, according to a new report from a group advocating affordable health care.

The state Health Department is seeking a $43,500 fine from the Chevron Hawaii Refinery for alleged water quality violations.

Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. signaled his support for a stalled bill that would outlaw plastic checkout bags at retail stores across Kaua‘i, sending a letter to the Kaua‘i County Council that counters business community opposition that caused a deferral last week.

An alternative rail plan advanced by Kamehameha Schools could save money in the short-term but would create safety, traffic and other problems, according to the city.

About 30 people spoke up Monday night at a special hearing on a proposed reorganization of the Hawaii County Council, with nearly as many in favor as opposed.

Opponents of a County Council reorganization slightly outnumbered supporters Monday evening during a public hearing that brought several first-time testifiers to the microphone.

Maui Planning Commission members were unable to agree where to designate growth boundaries in South Maui, but they did make some progress in Kula.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Economy continues to dominate state headlines

Margaret Dupre says she is exercising her First Amendment right to express herself by holding psychic readings on the sidewalks of Waikiki.

New figures released last week showed roughly one out of every 13 people in Hawai'i goes naked when it comes to health insurance, either not being able to afford the coverage or choosing to do without it.

As the economy limps along, Hawai'i's museums are finding it tougher to meet their financial needs. They've slashed budgets by cutting hours, closing collections and laying off staff.

With unemployment growing, soup kitchens statewide are overflowing with hungry residents.

The Kauai Civil Defense Agency will host the annual, week-long Weapons of Mass Destruction exercise in conjunction with the Hawaii National Guard 93rd Civil Support Team.

Hawaii inmates help themselves and the community by building playgrounds

With sunny skies, gentle winds and an ocean backdrop, Hilo was a good place Saturday to go swimming, have a picnic or even rail against the government.

For economists, it's yet another number to add to their statistical models. But for 80 of Hokulia's 100 employees whose numbers are up, it's the loss of a paycheck and their livelihoods.

Plans for a proposed Maui Regional Public Safety Complex - or jail - in Puunene are moving forward, leaders from the state Public Safety and Accounting and General Services departments said last week.

“Keep out of water.” Chronically high levels of enterococcus bacteria — well above state and federally deemed safe levels — was what prompted water quality expert Dr. Carl Berg to organize efforts in permanently displaying those words on a sign near the Hanalei River at the county’s Black Pot Park.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Saving sea turtles, taxing telephones, grappling with the economy and other top Hawaii stories

Volunteer group working to protect Hawaiian sea turtles

State tax collections were off by 5 percent in July and August, a steeper decline than estimated by the state Council on Revenues and another indication the state's economic recovery could take longer than expected.

Hawaii's latest tax collections fell 5 percent in July and August, a drop greater than predicted for the full fiscal year by the state's Council on Revenues.

As Hawaii's tax revenues continue to plummet, Gov. Linda Lingle said some of the savings will have to come from state government employees.

The statewide board charged with bringing enhanced emergency 911 service to Hawaii wants to expand the program through a monthly surcharge on all telephone numbers, not just cell phones.

Two more Neighbor Island public libraries are adjusting or cutting hours because of budget cutbacks and staff shortages, according to a news release.

Affordable housing advocates and legislators are puzzled at the Hawai'i Public Housing Authority board's decision this week to start a search for a new executive director, saying the agency's current head has made significant strides in the past two years toward turning around an agency that's been awash in problems for decades.

The state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs said Hawaii's workers' compensation insurance rates are dropping for the fifth consecutive year

Tourists seeking to experience historic Waipio Valley may have to settle for views from the rim, a commercial tour or a long hike.

A judge granted West Hawaii Today's request to add a second set of potential Sunshine Law violations to its lawsuit against the County Council.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to be featured on quarter, economy still flat, union talks continue

The United States Mint announced today that the nation will honor Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii through its new quarter-dollar coin program. The Hawai'i Volcanoes' design will be the 14th to be featured on coins released under the United States Mint America the Beautiful Quarters Program, and will be issued in 2012.

Hawai'i hotels posted a sixth straight month of record low occupancy in July despite slashing prices to lure visitors in a down economy.

While the state and the Hawaii Government Employees Association are arguing about a new labor contract before a panel of three arbitrators, sensitive talks are going on behind the scenes to end the labor dispute this month.

Thieves sneak past soldiers, burglarize elementary school

Honolulu City Managing Director Kirk Caldwell yesterday said he will run for mayor when Mayor Mufi Hannemann leaves office, be it 2010 or 2012.

A Delaware company is moving forward with plans to turn five miles of Ka'u coastline into a new community unlike any in the region.

The animals have left the fair.

Those who like to consume alcohol in Kauai County parks will have to find something else to do from 11 at night until 6 in the morning.

Opponents set a public hearing on Hawaii County Council reorganization as an admitted delaying tactic, but now that it's scheduled, council members have to go through with it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Unions hopeful for economic recovery, ag industry and private schools strapped

Agri- cultural industry executives worry that Hawaii businesses will wither on the vine and incoming food will rot on the docks if the state goes through with massive layoffs of agriculture inspectors.

The state's private schools this year have had to increase financial aid to prevent an exodus of families that can no longer afford tuition.

Public and trade unions in Hawaii celebrated Labor Day as they have for decades at the annual Unity picnic in Waikiki.

Hawaii union workers spent the day with their families in Waikiki on Monday at the Second Annual Labor Day Unity Picnic.

The leader of the Hawaii Laborers Union said he is beginning to see signs of recovery in the construction industry.

State officials are holding two series of meetings about fishing regulations.

On Oct. 11, at the canonization of Father Damien in Saint Peter's Square, Pope Benedict XVI will give Honolulu Bishop Larry Silva a small box containing the right heel of Hawai'i's first saint.

Opponents of a development that would urbanize more than 1,000 acres of prime agricultural land in Ewa have won a preliminary battle at the State Land Use Commission.

One visitor in Hawaii is nearing the end of his mission to try 50 jobs each in a different state in 50 weeks.

Long accustomed to water catchment, dirt roads and other infrastructure deficiencies, lower Puna residents will soon have the island's newest and biggest fire station.

The county Board of Ethics’ ongoing discussion of Kaua‘i County Charter Section 20.02D has led to the resignation of one county volunteer last month, setting up the possibility of a precedent that could reach far and wide and change the way local government operates.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Lingle goes public with budget woes: news reports, transcript and video links

The worst may not be over for Hawaii state workers. Governor Linda Lingle, in a videocast streamed live on the internet, delivered more grim news Thursday afternoon. She says a second round of layoffs is likely.

Gov. Linda Lingle is planning another round of state worker layoffs, plus cuts to social service programs that will result in "a fundamental restructuring of state government."

Gov. Linda Lingle cautioned yesterday that a second round of layoffs because of the budget deficit would require a fundamental restructuring of state government, but she would not discuss the number of state workers who could lose their jobs or other specifics.



The state Board of Education last night failed to approve a proposal that would have reduced the public library system's budget by $5.7 million.

State legislators have ordered Ted Liu, the embattled director of the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, to provide a written accounting of his decision to lay off nearly all workers in the Hawaii Film Office, which has brought about $1 billion to the state since 2001.

A spike in enrollment, long-range planning and purging of low-demand courses have allowed the University of Hawaii at Hilo to avoid -- at least so far -- some of the draconian cuts happening at UH-Manoa.

The state's war on invasive species may have to take a backseat to saving the struggling agriculture industry, as state officials scramble for funding in a down economy

The Bookmobile resumed service Tuesday after mechanical problems were addressed. But, because of budget cuts, service to West Maui was eliminated.

To demonstrate just how easy using wind as a clean, renewable energy source is, Smith, along with business partner Dane Eirhart, came up with an idea which they’ve been proudly parading around town in recent days.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

National report: Hawaii roads and bridges are dangerous; Lingle administration vows to help

A report by a national trans- portation research group released on Wed- nesday confirmed what most Hawaii drivers already know: roads and bridges in Hawaii are in bad shape and traffic is awful.

The Lingle administration is renewing efforts to get lawmakers to approve a "holistic" and "aggressive" $4.2 billion program for highway and traffic modernization, safety and education, state Transportation Director Brennon Morioka said yesterday.

U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono joined AARPHawai‘i for a health care town hall Wednesday, and “civility, aloha and dignity” prevailed in lieu of the division, fear and fighting that has plagued similar meetings across the country this summer.

The head of the state agriculture department said Wednesday she's located funds to cut in half the number of agriculture inspectors who may be laid off because of the state's budget crisis.

An attempt to give Hawaii County's auditor fiscal independence faltered Tuesday when a proposed Charter amendment was postponed at the request of its author.

The county's plan to sell lands seized in Hamakua for back taxes is a fire sale, community members warned the County Council Tuesday.

Weary and hungry from a meeting that ran nearly 111/2 hours, Hawaii County Council members voted to postpone their discussion on a bill that would provide greater transparency to large land sales by the county.

Five County Council members went on a lobbying expedition to Honolulu in April, assuring state lawmakers they would "quickly pass" a resolution asking for a reprieve from the state's new Clean Elections Law, according to an amended lawsuit filed Tuesday by West Hawaii Today.

Two 13-year-old boys were arrested after a 12-year-old girl told police Monday she was held against her will on the grounds of the Kamehameha Schools Kapalama campus from early Friday to early Monday and repeatedly sexually assaulted.

Tuesday marked the first day the Maui County Parks and Recreation Department - technically - put into place controversial rules meant to free up more space at Maui's most crowded beaches.

Tourists and workers were assured Tuesday that the Maui Prince Hotel will operate continuously through foreclosure, although there will be some loss of jobs.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

New cruise ships coming, stinky people to be banned from The Bus, hotel workers jobs in limbo

Hawaii's cruise market, which had declined this year 22.9 percent through July, is likely to become more buoyant in 2010 and 2011 when two major cruise lines expand their island presence.

The Honolulu City Council is considering a bill that will make it illegal to "bring onto transit property odors that unreasonably disturb others or interfere with their use of the transit system, whether such odors arise from one's person, clothes, articles, accompanying animal or any other source."

The fate of 380 jobs is in limbo as a lender searches for a new company to manage the Maui Prince Hotel and Makena North Golf course.

With a pending foreclosure and uncertainty about continued funding for Makena Resort operations, the Maui Prince Resort gave notice to employees Monday that it would terminate its management contract and cease being the hotel and golf course operator as of Sept. 16.

Maui County police ordered mandatory evacuations on Sunday after winds changed course, causing a brushfire on Molokai to switch direction from mauka to makai

A wildfire that threatened dozens of homes and business in Kaunakakai over the weekend is now endangering native forests.

The Lingle administration vowed yesterday that a new, state-sponsored medical insurance program for legal immigrants will not endanger the lives of Micronesians in Hawai'i who need kidney dialysis or chemo- therapy.

A bill that would increase restrictions on drinking in Kauai county parks took another step toward becoming law when it passed out of committee during last week’s Kaua‘i County Council meeting at the Historic County Building.