Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Maui tourism up, shark fins, abolishing elected School Board in legislative debates, curfew at housing project sparks controversy, county mayors grapple with budgets, more top Hawaii news

A jump in the number of visitors traveling to Maui in February helped offset declines on the other major islands, the Hawai'i Tourism Authority reported yesterday.

The best combination of green and budget for accommodations? Camping, of course

The state House Finance Committee agreed yesterday that voters should decide whether the state school board will be appointed by the governor.

The state stood by its decision yesterday to institute a 10 p.m. curfew at two Kalihi public housing projects following a string of violent confrontations that ended in a shooting Monday, but some residents said the security measure goes too far.

Hawaii got top marks for setting high standards and an agenda for education reform in the competition for Race to the Top federal funds. But it was graded low on helping charter schools and lifting student achievement.

A proposed constitutional amendment to abolish Hawaii's elected school board might be in the hands of voters in November.

Honolulu was ranked the second-most expensive city in the world to do business among 112 cities studied in a recent global survey.

Supporters say it could have been ground breaking legislation to protect sharks, instead Senate Bill 2169 was deferred by State House Judiciary Chair Jon Riki Karamatsu, essentially taking all the bite out of the bill.

The Department of Human Services Kalihi Unit is one of 31 the state's shutting down as DHS switches to an on-line and over-the-phone application system.

Pedestrian safety advocates are urging both drivers and pedestrians to pay attention and avoid taking risks.

While Maui County might be facing its largest budget hole ever, the buses still need to run, and Mayor Charmaine Tavares said she is sticking with her pledge to start building a bevy of benches and shelters this year to protect riders from the sun, rain and wind.

Eliminating more vacant positions, encouraging early retirement and seeking federal money were among the suggestions County Council members gave Monday for avoiding a tax hike and service cuts.

Hawaii County administration plans to plug a $24 million hole in property tax revenues by raising tax rates, but a corresponding decline in property values is supposed to make it a wash for property owners.

A West Hawaii resident is questioning police and other state and county officials' inaction after he spent six months trying to report alleged, ongoing sexual abuse of a minor.

While a burglary-free community might be an unrealistic goal, it is what the Neighborhood Watch program strives to accomplish — and with noted success.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

High winds and surf forecast for all islands, state Senate budget grabs hotel tax, closes prison, half of Big Island babies exposed to drugs, alcohol, tobacco, senator and reporter bidding on newspaper, more

A high-wind advisory remains in effect for all islands until 6 tomorrow night.

The state's budget crisis continues to echo through the Capitol as the Senate prepares a budget that moves inmates to the mainland by closing a prison module, cuts the work year for school principals, and even includes a 3 percent pay cut for lawmakers, judges and state executives.

The state Senate Ways and Means Committee yesterday produced its draft of the state budget, avoiding a broad-based tax increase but scooping hotel-room taxes from the counties to help close the state's $1.2 billion deficit.

The state Department of Human Services will lay off nearly half of its 517 workers who process applications for government benefits and will shut down 31 eligibility offices statewide under a cost-cutting plan set to go into effect June 30.

A modernization and consolidation plan for some operations within the Department of Human Services would expand benefits for the needy and save the state about $8 million a year, the Lingle administration says.

Cockfighting is illegal, but that didn't stop Hawaii lawmakers from advancing a resolution yesterday recognizing its cultural value.

State Sen. Sam Slom, president and executive director of Smart Business Hawaii, and Malia Zimmerman, co-founder of online news journal Hawaii Reporter, have expressed an 11th-hour interest in purchasing the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

Data for pregnant women on the Big Island suggest about half of the island's 37,892 children under age 18 were exposed before birth to alcohol, tobacco and illicit drug use, researchers report.

The fourth installment of "Pirates of the Caribbean" doesn't begin filming until this summer, but they're already looking for extras. There will be two casting calls held in Oahu & Kauai

Local songwriter Roslyn Catracchia is asking the public to help in getting back her life’s work. Burglars broke into Catracchia’s home in Aina Haina Sunday, and stole computers that contained 20 years of her work.

Forced to make difficult budget decisions due to a dramatic drop in tax revenue collections, Mayor Charmaine Tavares has proposed to eliminate Maui County's only helicopter ambulance service, her staff said.

Keauhou Beach Resort's 40th anniversary celebration Sunday summoned memories for former employee Elaine Watai, of Kailua-Kona, who shared stories and old photographs of the hotel in its heyday.

Kaua‘i Island School’s robot won’t be coming home just yet.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Thousands "Just Go With It" and audition, Hulihee Palace opens years after earthquake, cockfighting debate in Legislature, man gets 20 years for shooting marijuana thief, Chinatown residents oppose homeless shelter, Heftel honored, more news

Ringed rice coral appears strikingly modest for a species that is caught in the struggle over greenhouse gas emissions.

Failing to implement “common-sense measures” and neglecting to secure an incidental take permit to help mitigate the deaths and injuries to rare native seabirds led conservation groups to file a lawsuit last week against Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative, court documents show.

State lawmakers are again looking to raise the barrel tax on petroleum products to finance food and energy security programs, but this year there is a twist: most of the new revenue could initially help reduce the state's budget deficit.

About 200 Chinatown residents gathered at the Sun Yat Sen Cultural Center on Kukui Street yesterday to show their opposition to a proposed city project for chronically homeless people.

Thousands of people turned out in Maui for a chance to appear in the Adam Sandler-Jennifer Aniston movie "Just Go With It."

The prospect of being an extra in the upcoming Adam Sandler-Jennifer Aniston movie "Just Go With It" drew people like locusts Saturday to the Lipoa Center in Kihei.

It was a tribute to a trailblazer. A distinguished crowd turned out in downtown Honolulu Sunday afternoon to celebrate the life of the late congressman and broadcaster Cec Heftel.

Cockfighting is illegal in all 50 states, but the practice continues in Hawaii. State lawmakers on Monday are expected to consider a resolution that recognizes the cultural, financial and historical aspects of the activity without making it legal again.

Animal rights groups are protesting a resolution before Hawai‘i lawmakers supporting the recognition of cockfighting as a cultural activity.

The Hawaii County Council will be sharpening its pencils next week, as the Finance Committee goes line-by-line over Mayor Billy Kenoi's spending plans for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

It's an age-old problem: You move into a new place, and none of your old stuff looks right in it.Hawaii County's solution: Spend another $400,000 on furniture and window treatments on top of the $24.6 million already spent to renovate the County Building on Aupuni Street.

New energy-efficiency building standards Hawaii County plans to start enforcing in May will be expensive, possibly unnecessary and may outlaw common home designs, says Puna Councilwoman Emily Naeole-Beason.

An Ocean View man convicted of manslaughter for shooting and killing an intruder was sentenced Thursday to 20 years in prison.

Shoes and slippers lined Hulihee Palace's entryway Saturday as residents and visitors meandered about the 172-year-old royal vacation home taking in its history and beauty for the first time since the museum closed its doors to the public more than three years ago.

With the housing market still wobbling like a Front Street reveler on Halloween, West Maui continues to have a glut of market-priced homes.

Jean Souza, the Kaua‘i programs coordinator for the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, said she received a call from Kaua‘i police dispatch reporting calls of a whale being born in the harbor.

Hawaii is in a position to develop as a model for holistic care in the new health care reform movement, says Shirley Otis-Green, a national authority on palliative care.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Wiliwili trees making a comeback, Hawaii 4th-graders can't read as state continues furlough fight, Army says no duty to report child abuse, more Hawaii news

The state is declaring victory in the fight against an invasive species that killed thousands of Hawai'i's trees — thanks to some scientific detective work that took one entomologist all the way to Tanzania to enlist a natural enemy of the gall wasp.

Nearly half of a randomly selected group of Hawaii public school fourth-graders tested below basic reading levels, according to a nationwide assessment.

A parents group, the teachers union and the state Board of Education want legislators to support restoring cuts in public school days, despite a warning by Republican Gov. Linda Lingle that she would restrict the funds to pay for it.

A preliminary report released by two federal agencies confirmed that when the state accidentally dropped 125, 1.3-ton concrete slabs onto a swath of coral reef last year, it damaged a living habitat for myriad fish and other aquatic life-forms.

A public informational meeting will be held Tuesday to discuss the investigation of coral damage at Keawakapu reef during a state reef-enhancement project in December.

Honolulu's proposed rail-transit project needs to be conducted with "a higher level of transparency," the state Department of Transportation said yesterday as it made public all its correspondence on the issue.

The top uniformed officer in the U.S. military yesterday sharply criticized Fort Shafter's Lt. Gen. Benjamin R. "Randy" Mixon after Mixon said he is against repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding gays in the military.

After a top-level public scolding over his remarks on the military's policy regarding gays, the commander of U.S. Army Pacific issued a terse "no comment" yesterday from his headquarters at Fort Shafter.

An attorney for the U.S. Army argued in court on Thursday that Army officials have no legal duty to report child abuse to civilian authorities.

A lawyer for two boys filed suit against the state Thursday, saying the state could have prevented years of abuse they suffered from their legal guardians. It's a case prosecutors referred to as a "house of torture."

The video playing on YouTube shows 95-year-old Beatrice Muranaka talking to her pet bird, walking with her walker, and trying to call Charles Schwab.

According to Deputy Prosecutor Rick Damerville, people are still being caught and prosecuted for welfare fraud despite state budget cuts that have left the Big Island with one welfare fraud investigator instead of the three it once had.

A well project in North Kona got the environmental green light from a state economic development agency.

Roy Yasay got more than appreciation premiums from the Hawai‘i Counts 2010 Census Van which was parked at the Salt Pond Beach Park Sunday.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Akaka Bill under fire, Historic Preservation Division risks federal funds, rail still at issue, islands struggle with tax hikes, state gaga over Google, cigarettes targeted again, more Hawaii news

Gov. Linda Lingle has sent a letter to all 100 U.S. senators, reaffirming her opposition to the latest version of a bill that would allow native Hawaiians to create a sovereign government, but Hawaii's two senators predict the bill will pass without her support.

The Native Hawaiian community and the military have often been at odds over the use of land across the islands.  But Wednesday, representatives from both signed a promise to work together.

The state agency that for years has struggled to protect Hawai'i 's historic and cultural sites is in danger of losing federal funding that amounts to half its budget.

The state Historic Preservation Division risks losing more than $1.1 million in federal funding -- about half its budget -- due to program lapses detailed in a new report by the National Park Service.

Hawai'i state and county officials are pitching Google Inc. in the hopes of landing one of the free ultra-high speed broadband networks the company is proposing to install around the country.

The state and the four counties have made a bid to be part of online search giant Google's test of ultra high-speed broadband.

Gov. Linda Lingle is asking the Legislature for $40 million in emergency funds to help the Department of Human Services cover its April payment to the state's Medicaid providers.

In a survey of 500 residents that began statewide in December, 71 percent supported a 60-cent-per-pack increase in the cigarette tax to reduce smoking and the state budget deficit.

Lawmakers Thursday, will debate a bill that would carve out $86 million from the Hurricane Relief Fund to end school furloughs.

Gubernatorial candidate Neil Abercrombie says he isn't looking for villains to blame for the continuing school furloughs.

The city, not the state, will have to pay to resolve the issue of a planned commuter rail line running too close to the Honolulu International Airport, according to a Nov. 3 letter from the state Department of Transportation.

With each delay along the way, the City’s mantra about its multibillion-dollar rail proposal remains unwavering.

Little more than two years after opening its doors, Hilo's Yukio Okutsu Veterans Home finds itself nearly full.

Facing opposition from farmers and ranchers, the Hawaii County Water Board is having second thoughts about discontinuing its agricultural subsidy, a move that could cause residential rates to rise more than first thought.

The $23 million fresh fruit processing line that three years ago was supposed to represent the new future of Maui Pineapple Co. was auctioned Tuesday for $125,000.

The carcass of a rare beaked whale will be a "treasure chest" of information for scientists, after it was recovered in Hana this week.

A weekend dog attack that left three Kapa‘a High School sheep dead highlights the shortcomings in the school’s struggling agriculture program and the dearth of student interest in farming, the school’s principal and primary ag teacher said this week.

Clayton Hale remembers a time when professional musicians could make a decent living performing on the Big Island.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Advocates, unions seek huge GET tax hike, governor, unions still sparring over furloughs, Hawaii County Band pleads for its life, state population growth slows as households spend more, other Hawaii news

Advocates for the poor and members of Hawaii's largest public worker unions rallied at the state Capitol on Tuesday to urge lawmakers to hike the general excise tax 1 percent.

Advocates for the poor and labor union workers rallied yesterday for an increase in Hawaii's version of the sales tax as anti-tax demonstrators urged the government to back off.

Despite two new proposals aimed at ending Furlough Fridays for public school students, the issue does not seem any closer to being settled.

Hours after education officials and Gov. Linda Lingle announced competing proposals to end teacher furloughs in Hawai'i's public schools yesterday, it was already clear that no breakthrough was at hand.

Two competing plans have been released, to end Furlough Fridays in Hawaii schools.

The Board of Education and teachers union Tuesday reached tentative agreement to end public school teacher furloughs.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said today that Kmart Corporation will pay $120,000 and furnish other relief to settle an age discrimination suit involving a 70-year-old pharmacist at a Honolulu store.

Kaua'i County and UPW officials yesterday signed a supplemental agreement on an automated refuse collection service for up to 3,200 homes in Puhi, Lihu'e and portions of Hanama'ulu starting July 1.

Kaua‘i County and United Public Workers signed an agreement Tuesday that clears the path for a “milestone” program to replace traditional three-worker trash collection teams with mechanized, side-loading trucks operated by a single employee.

The opening day of the Maui County fiscal year 2011 budget review Monday was a day of pie charts, spreadsheets and phrases like "tightening belts" and "sharing the pain."

Members of the Hawaii County Band gave perhaps the most important performance of their lives Monday, yet there was nary a musical instrument in sight.

The Hawaii County Band accounts for a scant one-tenth of 1 percent of the county's $375.3 million budget. But Monday night, it consumed 96.7 percent of a three-hour County Council hearing on the budget.

Hawai'i's population grew an estimated 0.7 percent per year from July 1, 2000, to July 1, 2009, a slight decrease from the previous decade, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released yesterday.

The 1960s show tune "Hey Big Spender" may as well be dedicated to Hawaii households because we are third in the United States, according to a new report by

A West Hawaii Realtor says the real estate market has reached bottom, but a long-time appraiser thinks the market, while showing improvement, has yet to stabilize.

As an 18-month trial period allowing leashed dogs on a section of the multi-use path draws to a close, canine-lovers in favor of permitting their furry friends on the entirety of Ke Ala Hele Makalae are pushing for county action.

Self-described pragmatists, who favor looking forward instead of back, tend to be skeptical of those ever-vocal members of our community who set out to save the crumbling, peeling, faded remnants of what once vibrantly surrounded us.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Senate reconsiders GET tax hike, candy to be banned from schools, Royal Hawaiian Band dodges budget bullet, state seeks Obama presidential library, NELHA opens fish market, Hilo Hospital thriving, more

State Sen. Donna Mercado Kim says her financial plans call for balancing the state budget without raising the general excise tax.

Candy and ice cream sales would be banned at Hawaii public schools under a measure that's close to passing the state Legislature.

President Barack Obama should put his future presidential library in Hawaii, where he was born and raised, according to state lawmakers.

The 174-year-old Royal Hawaiian Band is safe for now.

Barring an agreement between the state and the teachers union and funding from the state Legislature, next year's school calendar will include 17 furlough Fridays — leaving a total of 163 instructional days — under a recently approved public school calendar.

In a bid to crack down on longtime problem areas for prostitution, the Honolulu City Council is considering a bill that would target johns by impounding their cars.

Chinese and Korean visitors, two key targets for growth in the state's recovering tourism industry, find plenty to like about Waikiki but say the night life is lacking.

Honolulu police on Monday evening, caught a Hawaii State Hospital escapee with a violent record.

The federal health reform plan preserves Hawaii's pre-paid health care act of 1974 which has insured 92 percent of the state's population.

Family and friends of Nicole Scherzinger gathered in Makaha Valley to watch the premiere of season ten of "Dancing With The Stars."

Administrators are working to continue Hilo Medical Center's transformation from its humble beginnings as a small-town hospital to a major regional health care provider.

A new farmers market will open in less than two weeks, bringing aquaculture products grown at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority in North Kona to the public one Friday over the next four months.

Admittedly, the traffic mitigation plan to extend Waiale Road to Honoapiilani Highway will take a little imagination on the part of some people to envision, Maui County officials said this week.

The body of 58-year-old Kaua‘i resident Rodney Ahn found in Kalalau Valley last month prompted a state Department of Land and Natural Resources employee to raise questions about funding cutbacks, which he said are hurting the agency’s ability to perform its job.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hawaii reacts to health care bill, government strives to save natural resources, beach access, earmarks R us, honey bees in peril, more top state news

As Hawai'i's precious recreation areas become increasingly crowded, a bill to protect shoreline access is gaining momentum in the Legislature.

The native koa and ohia trees in the Kau Forest Reserve reach 100 feet into the sky, providing a haven for critically endangered Hawaii birds to nest and forage.

The monumental health care reform bill passed by the U.S. House yesterday will have immediate results for some residents in Hawaii, supporters said.

Hawai'i's congressional delegation yesterday praised the historic restructuring of the nation's health care system as a momentous step forward.

Local supporters of the bill praised its promise to bring health coverage to millions, reduce costs of prescription drugs while extending coverage for consumers with pre-existing conditions.

As the health care reform passed through legislation, some local politicians celebrated the landmark bill.

Scores of private companies, nonprofit groups and state agencies will divvy up more than $412 million this year in earmarked federal funds that were designated by one or more of Hawaii's four members of Congress.

Well, the other shoe has dropped and it now appears that unlike the House, which was willing to look at other ways to fill the looming general fund budget gap, the state Senate seems to be more than willing to solve the fiscal crises facing the state by increasing the general excise tax.

Just weeks before hula's premier event, the hula world is mourning the loss of two of its best-known members.

The hula world, still shaken by the loss of Uncle George Na'ope late last year, is now dealing with the loss of the other pillar.

Beekeepers of all sorts know they must find a way to coexist with the destructive parasite as varroa mites continue to spread across the Big Island.

Drought has made many West Hawaii residents painfully aware of water here where catchment tanks and wells form the backbone of the water supply.

If and when it is up to Hawaii gubernatorial candidate Neil Abercrombie to take the state's reins, he said last week, one of the first orders of business will be to tackle the challenge that has eluded his recent would-be predecessors: Fix the public school system.

The wind was cold and clouds obscured the sun, but the photovoltaic system atop the One Stop Center was producing electricity Friday at Kaua‘i Community College.

Kauai County's Important Agricultural Lands advisory committee met for the third time Friday, revealing the differences of the diverse group.

In January, 19 of our 25 state senators joined together to introduce Senate Bill 2450, a measure to decriminalize possession of less than one ounce of marijuana.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Lingle's spending plan shows more cuts, state auditor charges governor with bad, possibly illegal, investment decisions, pot poses problems, Ka'u wants more cops, Maui sued over girls' sports, Kauai shrimp company seeks to dump waste in ocean, more Hawaii news

"Simply balancing the budget doesn't get Hawaii back on track," Gov. Linda Lingle told Senate lawmakers Thursday.

Gov. Linda Lingle presented an updated six-year financial plan to the Legislature yesterday that presumes another round of pay cuts for state workers and reduces benefits for people in Quest, the state's health plan for the poor and disabled.

Gov. Linda Lingle appeared before the Senate money committee on Thursday with news that her six year budget plan includes cutting government worker salaries 5.5 percent.

Gov. Linda Lingle's long-term financial plan amounts to a "shell game" that simply shifts money around and relies on more pay cuts for public workers that would have to be negotiated after she leaves office, Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Donna Mercado Kim says.

State Auditor Marion Higa challenged Gov. Linda Lingle to take dueling lie detector tests yesterday, as her office released a stinging report on the Department of Budget and Finance.

The state legislative auditor blasts the Budget and Finance Department for its handling of taxpayer money and fires back at Gov. Linda Lingle administration over criticism of her report.

A feud between state auditor Marion Higa and Gov. Linda Lingle grew more heated yesterday with Higa challenging the administration to take a lie detector test.

State Auditor Marion Higa fired back Thursday afternoon, saying her reputation and credibility was attack two weeks ago when Governor Lingle called her audit draft "shoddy" and "a complete disregard for the facts." Higa said, "I think we need a affirmative response to set the record straight."

A nonbinding resolution that would call for Maui County to study the creation of a light-rail system moved forward Wednesday in the state House of Representatives.

Hawaii could see an increase in crime and other economic fallout if it legalizes medical marijuana dispensaries and softens medical marijuana laws, two Los Angeles police officers warned Wednesday.

Two prospective buyers squinted at azure skylines and tramped through fragrant, sun-warmed sugarcane Wednesday as the county showed off some of its land holdings for sale in Hamakua.

The Hawaii County Council on Wednesday paved the way for East Hawaii's only dialysis center to move into a new Hilo home.

A maximum of three officers on patrol at any given time in the Ka'u district doesn't provide enough police presence to deter crime, residents say.

The state Department of Education and Maui County have been accused of discriminating against girls' athletics.

Proposing to discharge up to 30 million gallons of wastewater effluent and treated shrimp remains into the ocean on a daily basis, Sunrise Capital has filed for a Draft National Pollutant Discharge Elimination permit with the state Department of Health, according to an e-mail from the DOH’s communications office Thursday.

The tsunami that hit Hilo Bay on Feb. 27 did no appreciable physical damage, but it may have released a chemical demon.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

State wants to ignore birthers, Maui Pineapple selling equipment, UH student in trouble for posting nude photos in classrooms, more top Hawaii news

Birthers beware: Hawaii may start ignoring your repeated requests for proof that President Barack Obama was born here.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority projects 200,000 more visitors this year, and has not wasted any time making sure it happens.

If you've ever had a hankering to wheel one of those big yellow pine trucks down the highway, Tuesday is your chance. Maui Pineapple Co. is auctioning off about 16 of the behemoths, along with a practically unused, state-of-the-art cannery and lots of other stuff that was left over when Maui's last pineapple plantation closed at the end of 2009.

The head of the state Department of Human Services yesterday said the proposed budget for her agency would result in cuts that are "draconian" and would cause "significant harm" to the people who need services the most.

People attending Hawai'i's biggest new-car show will be greeted by a Hawaiian Electric Co. display in what may mark the dawn of the era of the electric car

John Johnson was playing cards at a picnic table in Kapiolani Park when he learned that the Honolulu City Council had passed a ban on tents in parks unless the user has a permit.

You may have seen it, a black flag with the silhouette of a soldier. It's called the "prisoner of war, missing in action" flag. And if a bill clears the Legislature, that flag will fly at the State Capitol, six days a year.

A University of Hawaii student could face disciplinary action for taking nude and semi-nude photos and videos of himself in U.H. Manoa classrooms and posting them on the Internet.

A bill that would outlaw smoking in any motorized vehicle occupied by a child or young adult was advanced Tuesday by a 6-3 vote of a County Council committee.

Outgoing Environmental Management Director Lono Tyson contradicted two of his employees Tuesday, claiming that the department had no intention to close the Kealakehe green waste site and move green waste collections to Puuanahulu.

A 2nd Circuit Court judge has dismissed all remaining claims in a lawsuit filed against the county by three county employees.

Manu Kai, the primary support contractor for the U.S. Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility, will be notifying 14 full-time employees this week of impending lay-offs, the company’s program manager said Wednesday.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Hang onto your wallets, the Legislature is in session, one coqui captured, beach encroachment banned, DUI arrests up, more top Hawaii news

State senators yesterday moved toward a general excise tax increase to help with the state's budget deficit after finding that targeted tax hikes on businesses would likely be passed on to consumers and could undermine economic growth.

A plan to raise the general excise tax 1 percentage point is on the move, but Senate leaders are predicting it will not get far.

The Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee has scuttled a proposed tax on Hawaii health insurance premiums.

House lawmakers passed a bill aimed at stopping private landowners from planting vegetation that encroaches onto public beaches.

Authorities said drunken driving arrests are up in Honolulu, in part because police are stepping up enforcement of DUI laws

It took a lot of trying, but the lone Mānoa coqui frog has been captured.

The skipper of a Pearl Harbor-based attack submarine was fired this week after he was found guilty of drunkenness and conduct unbecoming an officer.

The city's planned route for a new $5.3 billion rail system runs too close to runways at Honolulu International Airport, and that has become a major sticking point holding up the project.

Central Pacific Bank has announced a new chief executive - and a new strategy to build its cash reserves as required by federal banking regulators. The new strategy includes downsizing, and employees have been told there may be layoffs.

Everyone Acts Small in Local Banking

Hawaii's House of Representatives wants to spend $200-plus million to build Big Island schools, roads and even a hydroelectric power plant that may never move beyond a wish-list status.

Although Kaua‘i has the restrictive agricultural-land subdivision rules, people have still been able to navigate around the system and establish residences on prime agricultural lands while not necessarily being engaged in substantial farming.

The Hawaii County Council has been given the Big Island Press Club's 13th annual Lava Tube award. According to the club, the award recognizes the year's most notable offense against the public's right to know.

Mayor Billy Kenoi's administration has done an about-face on selling its coqui frog sprayers following an outcry from a community group that's been conducting its own eradication program.

The coming months will result in the most difficult Maui County budget process in memory, Mayor Charmaine Tavares said Monday as she revealed her administration's fiscal year 2011 budget proposal.

With $53 million less in the county's anticipated fiscal year 2011 budget revenues compared with last year, Mayor Charmaine Tavares on Monday proposed to increase or "adjust" the real property tax rates for several classifications.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lawmakers consider homeless zones, 1st Congressional debate draws interest, Kauai, Maui mayors cut budgets, gay cruise anniversary slated for Hawaii. more top state news

State law- makers are con- sidering a temporary solution to the con- tinuing problem of homeless campers living in some of Hawaii's most popular parks. They want the state to designate land for homeless safe zones.

The three leading candidates in the May special election for Congress differed sharply last night on the value of the federal economic stimulus package, with former Congressman Ed Case and state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa contending it was necessary to get through the recession while Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou argued it was too costly and ineffective.

Congressional candidates sought to set themselves apart from the pack last night as six of the challengers vying to replace Neil Abercrombie debated their positions on issues including health care reform, the national debt, public education and campaign finance reform.

The first debate for the six candidates running for Neil Abercrombie's congressional seat was held Monday night.

Debate video

Honolulu City Councilman Rod Tam, who will face a censure vote tomorrow, continued to use his city allowance to pay for meals with constituents and retirement party gifts even when he knew he was being investigated for possible abuses by the city Ethics Commission.

If Hawaii smokers think they are getting a deal buying cigarettes on the Internet, the state attorney general has some advice: Forget it.

Maui and Kauai plan smaller budgets in the next fiscal year, including plans for worker furloughs.

Mayor Charmaine Tavares presented her fiscal year 2011 budget Monday, and it includes increases in fees for water, wastewater, landfill tipping and auto registrations, as well as fare increases for the Maui Bus.

Following the state’s lead and attempting to keep its head above water during a weak economic climate, Kaua‘i County intends to furlough its employees two days per month.

The Kauai County Council’s annual budget deliberations, during which the heads of various county departments and agencies are grilled about their spending proposals, could once again take place with the cameras off.

A $36.7 million contract for Honolulu's planned train project failed to garner any competition.

The company that created the gay and lesbian cruise concept is commemorating its 25th birthday with a Silver Anniversary Cruise in Hawaii.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Maui County cuts public access to save a buck, program for addict mothers losing funds while sterilization draws debate, Star Bulletin owner puts property for sale, county parks not maintained, restaurant inspections targeted, more Hawaii news

With Hawai'i's unemployment rate hovering at the highest level in three decades, Gov. Linda Lingle will offer $10 million to help businesses hire new workers by covering half of the workers' health care premiums for one year.

It was a war of words at the state capitol and Governor Linda Lingle took the first shot.

A bill moving through the Legislature would allow the Health Department to use the fees it gets from restaurants to hire more inspectors and put food violation records online.

Funding is in jeopardy for a clinic that has provided prenatal care to 200 pregnant women struggling with addictions and has delivered 82 babies with good results.

The one-woman show that is Project Prevention completed a three-day stint in Honolulu last week, generating 37 calls to the toll-free line and debate about Barbara Harris' unconventional approach to stopping substance-exposed births by paying drug addicts and alcoholics $300 to obtain long-term birth control or be sterilized.

Oahu Publications, Inc.(OPI) is selling the assets used in connection with the publication of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin newspaper, including the Star-Bulletin masthead and the URL,, and related land, buildings and production assets.

Maui County's budget shortfalls have led to another cutback - television coverage of county boards and commissions.

Akaku: Maui Community Television and other public-access television stations would not have to compete for their contracts under a bill moving through the state Legislature.

The United Public Workers union announced that one of its units, which represents 9,000 blue-collar workers, overwhelmingly approved a new contract agreement with the state and counties.

Hanalei Bay might be touted as the best beach in America, but the bathroom facilities would likely be rated the worst, said Kaua‘i resident Jeff Tucker.

Plans by China's Hainan Airlines to provide service between Beijing and Honolulu appear to be running behind schedule again.

Embattled Honolulu City Councilman Rod Tam said he will introduce a resolution to eliminate the discretionary fund allowance given to council members to avoid the same problems he has encountered.

Police cited 167 Big Island drivers in the first two months of the new ban on using cell phones and hand-held electronic devices while driving.

The parking lot at Pu'u Pua'i Overlook in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park will be closed Monday, March 15, through Wednesday, March 31, for repaving.

Hundreds of beer enthusiasts ascended upon Kailua-Kona Saturday, taking in the views while enjoying a few cold brews to support local nonprofits.

Aging in 22-ounce bottles at the Kona Brewing Company is a very green beer.

For 17 years, the Friends of Moku'ula have dug through red tape to unearth ruins linked to Hawaii's ancient monarchy - and what many consider to be the greatest archeological find in the entire state.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Turtles get protection, economic signals mixed, developers' permits take years, state looks to loosen marijuana laws even as feds raid Cannabis Ministry, Hawaii County to consider ethics, more state news

The National Marine Fisheries Service and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service jointly published a proposal to "up-list" North Pacific turtles to endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

The state Council on Revenues delivered mixed news yesterday: No need for any more state budget cuts to get through the fiscal year that ends in June, but the state will have to find more money to stay out of the red next year.

Hawaii's economy is showing signs of recovery, but uncertainty remains about how long it will be before the state fully emerges from recession

The momentum is shifting from negative to positive when it comes to the state general fund revenues.

The Council on Revenues Thursday forecast $48 million less in tax revenues to be collected by the state this fiscal year ending June 30, and next fiscal year.

Three marijuana bills are making their way through the Hawaii State Capitol.

Federal agents raided the downtown Hilo sanctuary of The Hawaii Cannabis Ministry Wednesday morning, assisted by local police.

Flag Bill Dead For Session

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources may issue a request for proposals for a kayak concession at Kealakekua Bay, the agency's director says.

A developer who hopes to build 3,500 homes makai of the H-2 freeway says farmers working on the land have found another place to plant.

It has taken six years, but Sterling Kim has gotten his final construction approvals from Maui County for phase one of his Hale Mua affordable housing project on about 200 acres mauka of Happy Valley.

The 16th iteration of a burial treatment plan that would allow Naue landowner Joseph Brescia to move forward with construction on his single-family home atop 30 known Hawaiian burials was approved this week by the State Historic Preservation Division.

The accrediting agency that six years ago raised serious concerns about the University of Hawai'i's operations is praising UH-Manoa for a big turnaround, saying the campus has "emerged from a difficult past," benefited from "stable" leadership and shows promise on meeting its goals.

Hawaii County's two bands will play on, according to County Council members working to preserve the $347,027 budget Mayor Billy Kenoi has proposed eliminating.

Dueling ethics proposals will be presented to the Hawaii County Council at an April 6 committee meeting, thanks to action taken Wednesday by the Board of Ethics.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

State lawmakers continue dealing with grim economic figures, Kauai flora, fauna, added to endangered list, fees going up, more top Hawaii news

State spending cuts significantly have worsened the effects of the global economic downturn in the Islands, according to several Hawai'i economists who spoke to more than 150 advocates, lawmakers and others at the state Capitol yesterday.

Lawmakers appear poised by the end of the legislative session in April to approve a bill to increase the "facility charge" all customers have to pay on their car rental bills from the current $1 a day to $4.50 a day.

Nearly one out of every six Hawai'i workers was either unemployed or underemployed last year

The state's resort real estate market is not out of the woods yet, but Honolulu analyst Ricky Cassiday said he believes he has detected signs that it finally touched bottom in the last quarter of 2009.

Maui's hotel occupancy rate jumped to 67.5 percent in January from 59.8 percent in the same month last year. For the state as a whole, occupancy rose from 63.1 to 66.5 percent.

As a Child Welfare Services specialist on the Big Island, Patrice Bell has seen spending restrictions and budget cuts reduce her office size by about one-third.

For more than 15 years, medical hope for House Clerk Pat Mau-Shimizu was sitting next to her on the House floor — C.J. Leong, House assistant clerk.

The federal government added 48 species found only on Kauai to the endangered species list yesterday, boosting the number of species classified as such by the Obama administration from two to 50.

Native flora and fauna on the verge of extinction for more than a decade have officially been added to the federal list of threatened and endangered species, according to a press release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wednesday

Mitsuo "Mits" Shito, a strong public housing advocate at the state Legislature, died of natural causes last month. He was 79.

Fire rescue crews say tiger sharks are hampering their search for a missing surfer on Oahu's North Shore.

State Sen. Colleen Hanabusa formally filed nomination papers Wednesday morning to run for the First Congressional District in a special election.

Hawaii County's cost to prepare for the recent tsunami threat: $274,067.

In stark contrast to last year, only one Hawaii County Council member is attending the National Association of Counties convention in Washington this week

Reacting to a study saying Kona coffee farmers lose $14.4 million to blenders each year, some processors and sellers claim changing state law to ban the practice of blending Kona coffee or require more Kona coffee in blends would negatively impact farmers, jobs and profits.

The $39 million project will take two years to complete and there will be construction delays, but the end result should be shorter commute times for those driving between Puhi and Lihu‘e, state officials said.

Starting May 11, Hawaii Island builders will have to observe a newly enacted county code that demands higher energy efficiency in newly constructed houses and, in some cases, in older houses undergoing renovation.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Binary star system identified, leaf blower ban mulled, gubernatorial race heats up, more Hawaii news

The W.M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea helped astronomers identify the smallest two-star (binary) system so far, officials said.

Lacking support for a statewide ban on fireworks, state lawmakers may give counties the option of deciding the issue.

Education officials say $70 million in budget cuts to the state Department of Education will result in an increase in class size and a reduction in school bus service.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann's likely bid to become governor picked up some early neighbor island support with yesterday's endorsement by the ILWU, but his Democratic opponent, former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, is urging Hannemann to stay put.

The Honolulu Police Department suspended yesterday a pilot program that put the names and mug shots of drunken-driving suspects on a Web page once a week.

Critics call it mind-blowing. Cranking up a gas powered leaf blower could cost you more than irked neighbors.

Chevron has revealed more about their downsizing plans and we've had a couple of interesting developments Tuesday.

A new study by the Web site "The Daily Beast" ranked the state 40th for future employment.

Puna Councilwoman Emily Naeole-Beason has introduced a bill that would make it illegal to smoke in any motor vehicle occupied by someone under the age of 18.

Not that long ago, county officials thought they'd be trucking Hilo's garbage across the county to West Hawaii by now.

Even as Council Member Gladys Baisa was renting a home in Kula for the past three years, she continued to have her name listed on a homeowner exemption claim for a home she owned with her husband in Makawao.

Maui Land and Pineapple Co. has reported a net loss of $123.3 million for last year.

A long-serving member of the Kaua‘i Police Commission spent his final meeting criticizing a proposed state law that would give the individual counties more authority to decide how police chiefs are hired and fired, warning that additional mayoral control could turn the county’s top cop into a “dangerous political football.”

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Big Island jolted with small quake, coral groups converge online, Honolulu cops seek bit parts on Hawaii Five-O, shark tour legislation stalled, more news

A 4.5 magnitude earthquake shook Big Island residents at 6:30 p.m. Monday. It was felt by island residents, but no tsunami was generated.

Big Island residents experienced a good shaking from an earthquake yesterday, but no tsunami was generated from it.

An earthquake on the Big Island triggered an alert over the airwaves. It said the quake did not generate a tsunami, but the alert did cause a little bit of a mix-up.

Coral reef-loving advocacy groups and government agencies are collaborating to simplify ocean monitoring programs in an effort to increase the participation of Maui's "citizen scientists."

Costs are going up and state services are going down, as the fallout from layoffs and furloughs continues to settle across government agencies responsible for everything from food and rabies inspections to issuance of birth and death certificates.

Efforts to limit or halt shark-viewing tours in the Islands through legislation have stalled in the Legislature, but the proposed bills are not dead and may resurface in the weeks to come.

Detective Paul Nagata Jr.'s father played a cop on the original "Hawaii Five-0."

Project Prevention, a national organization that pays drug addicts and alcoholics $300 cash to get sterilized or use long-term birth control, will be in Honolulu for the first time today, tomorrow and Thursday in an ongoing effort to eradicate substance-exposed births.
Fish have mysteriously returned to the ponds at the Hawaii state Capitol.

Big Island conservatives want to make it harder for the county government to take away their rights or raise taxes.

The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning for leeward sections of Maui County.

Someone may have set the fire that destroyed a multimillion-dollar home Saturday evening in a gated Kapalua community.

Former Princeville resident Linda Grover, whose daughter, son-in-law and seven grandchildren live in Anahola, is being remembered both as a patient peace advocate and tireless worker bent on getting a national and international holiday dedicated to world peace.

Adding another staff attorney or two to the county’s in-house law firm could actually save taxpayers money if it means fewer cases are assigned to costly special outside counsel, Kauai County Attorney Al Castillo told the Cost Control Commission on Monday.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Tax breaks help tourism, shark fins under attack, Honolulu newspaper employees discuss media merger with union, more top Hawaii news

State tax breaks helped finance a bank commercial, a Merrie Monarch Festival television special and music videos produced by a Honolulu Symphony Orchestra affiliate.

A study of plastic debris floating in the Pacific between Hawaii and California shows researchers have been sharply understating the amount of trash there.

Hawai'i public schools have begun testing a new online version of the state's annual assessment exam, which officials say will be a better gauge of student progress than the current paper-pencil test, once it is rolled out next school year.

A state senator wants to ban shark fins in Hawaii, not just for conservation reasons, but because the animal is considered a native Hawaiian deity.

Norman and Jennifer Shishido, of Kaimukī, readily acknowledge that mopeds are a convenient, relatively inexpensive means of transportation for many people

Hundreds of employees at Hawaii's two largest newspapers gathered for what was described as a "somber" meeting Sunday night

Hundreds of Star-Bulletin and Advertiser employees met at Washington Middle School for several hours Sunday afternoon to talk over their uncertain futures.

Getting called to put out a fire. That's what a former Honolulu fire captain is used to doing.

Fire crews on the Big Island were working Saturday night to contain a stubborn brush fire in Waikoloa.

More than 300 acres of fountain grass and open land had been consumed,

An 86-year-old Puna man is desperately seeking justice for his murdered son and closure for himself.

Less than eight hours after another two lives were lost in separate accidents on Queen Kaahumanu Highway, Kealakehe High School students took a stand against drunken driving on Saturday.

Kula Hospital has received $5 million in state funding to add 15 long-term beds - a long-awaited development that would relieve Maui Memorial Medical Center of some patients occupying acute-care beds.

Koloa School is one of the few schools that does not have a school garden, Suzanne Kashiwaeda said Friday.

The Kauai County Charter Review Commission last week advanced a proposal that, if approved by voters, would simultaneously broaden and weaken the scope of the Code of Ethics, specifically its rules governing contracts.

A long-term plan that hopes to transform downtown Lihu‘e into a pedestrian paradise replete with sidewalk cafes, outdoor shopping areas, landscaping and streetscapes took another step toward becoming reality when the Kaua‘i County Council unanimously passed it Wednesday.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Cruise tickets, passports going up, House trims governor's budget, emergency fireworks ban advances, Kauai kids get news channel, Honolulu councilman fined for ethics, more Hawaii news

Hawaii's cruise market, which declined 18.9 percent last year, could become more buoyant thanks to increased demand, especially from its home-ported sector.

Passport fees are going up, so the time to renew is now.

If you put a police station, firehouse, parking lot, rest rooms, emergency access and passive park on it, can it still be considered open space?

The House Finance Committee has cut Gov. Linda Lingle's state budget by $41 million.

Officials knew all along that Hawai'i stood only a slim chance of being among the first round of finalists in the competition for a huge pool of federal education money, but word yesterday that the state didn't make the cut still came as a blow to a public school system that could use some good news.

The state House Finance Committee yesterday approved a state budget draft that would add $50 million to reduce teacher furloughs next school year but would also make cuts to public education that could increase class size.

Honolulu City Councilman Rod Tam will pay the city $13,700 for improperly using his official allowance to pay for meals not related to council business and giving false accounts of his meals, according to an agreement he reached with the city Ethics Commission.

Honolulu councilman Rod Tam has been stripped of his committee chair titles for using taxpayer money for personal meals.

Dry weather sparked by an ongoing El Nino event has intensified drought conditions in many areas of Hawaii

A troubled real estate developer on the Big Island may be liquidating its assets, after it was discovered that it would be unable to reorganize in its Chapter 11 bankruptcy case.

At least four of Hawaii Island's 71 warning sirens failed Monday's monthly test, county Civil Defense Administrator Quince Mento said Wednesday.

Testimony before the state Land Use Commission was front-loaded with supporters of the Ooma Beachside Village's request to convert conservation land to an urban designation for a development project, but support waned as the first day of a two-day hearing wrapped up.

A resolution asking the state for county authority to temporarily restrict fireworks during emergencies squeaked through the Hawaii County Council on Wednesday.

The Maui County Council Budget and Finance Committee on Tuesday voted to recommend that projects receive $1.8 million in federal Community Development Block Grant funds.

Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School and Ke Kula Ni‘ihau O Kekaha are two of 50 schools in Hawai‘i taking part in “Hiki No,” or “Can Do,” the nation’s first statewide student news network airing on PBS from February through April 2011.

Citing concerns about traditional Hawaiian use and beach access and calling the state’s approval of a controversial proposed cattle fence overlooking Larsen’s Beach “arbitrary, capricious and erroneous,” two appeals were filed earlier this week on behalf of North Shore community members.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Coqui control victim of budget cuts, Fasi laid to rest, Pflueger trial delayed, Superferry still costing taxpayers, more Hawaii news

As it dismantles the last vestiges of its coqui control program, Hawaii County plans to sell off the equipment some community groups say is essential to their voluntary eradication efforts.

Councilwoman Brenda Ford wants to get the ball rolling on approving baking soda as a pesticide for use against coqui frogs.

Long after the dignitaries had left the Honolulu Hale courtyard, the "little guys" that Frank Fasi often spoke so fondly of were still streaming in to see the man they called Mister Mayor.

Frank F. Fasi's life and love affair with Honolulu were celebrated yesterday as friends paid final respects to the late mayor.

A six-man U.S. Marine Corps honor guard carried Frank Fasi's flag-draped casket into City Hall, the building where he worked as Honolulu's longest-serving mayor.

A hurried legislative effort to reduce an almost 12-fold increase in unemployment taxes concluded yesterday with a measure passing the state Senate and being sent to Gov. Linda Lingle for consideration.

The filing deadline for anyone who wants to run in the special election to fill former Congressman Neil Abercrombie's seat is two weeks from Wednesday.

In its second decision in five months questioning police and prosecution methods in speeding cases, the Hawai'i Supreme Court has dismissed the "excessive speeding" conviction of a motorcyclist clocked at 70 mph in a 35 mph zone.

Hawai'i taxpayers aren't done yet paying for the failed Superferry project.

Students give generally low marks to the campus and academic environment at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, according to the National Survey of Student Engagement.

A Puna resident is suing Malama O Puna and several government agencies, accusing them of illegally poisoning red mangroves on the Big Island coastline.

Councilman Kelly Greenwell's novel proposal to have the ultra-rich donate money to the island's hospitals failed to get off the ground.

State senators Tuesday sent to the House of Representatives a bill that would take about $86 million from the Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund to pay for the end of school furloughs.

A Maui jury awarded 3,800 Tennessee real estate buyers $54 million Wednesday against Chicago banker and part-time Maui resident Clyde Engle. Engle's wife, Siobhan, had earlier had a default judgment entered against her in the same case.

The manslaughter trail for retired Honolulu auto dealer James Pflueger won’t begin next month as previously scheduled.

Maui County hopes to cover an immediate $13.9 million budget deficit by postponing a bond sale, reducing self-insurance coverage and taking other steps that wouldn't impact public services, the finance director said Tuesday.

In an attempt to help rare native seabird populations recover on Kaua‘i, the same conservationist and cultural practitioners who threatened legal action against Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative in January are now targeting the St. Regis Princeville Resort for their alleged “failure to prevent ... ongoing deaths,”