Friday, April 30, 2010

Legislature on last day passes civil unions, reinstates steep tax hikes, after 27 years, Kilauea losing steam, more top news from around the state

In a dramatic last-minute reversal, the state Legislature sent Gov. Linda Lingle a bill legalizing civil unions between any two consenting adults.

State House lawmakers yesterday approved a bill that would give same-sex and heterosexual couples the ability to enter into civil unions and enjoy the same rights as married couples under state law.

Many are calling it a very historic moment for Hawaii, and it's big step towards a huge victory for civil union supporters.

Opponents of a civil unions bill are urging Gov. Linda Lingle to veto the measure when it hits her desk.

Expect gas prices, electric bills and shipping costs to rise because the state Legislature voted yesterday to override a veto of a $1-per-barrel tax increase on oil products.

From veto to law, legislators went against the governor and overturned 11 issues today many centered on jobs and tax increases.

Hawaii state lawmakers Thursday overrode one of Gov. Linda Lingle's vetoes to clear the way to impose an almost 2000 percent oil barrel tax hike.

The Lingle administration lashed out at state lawmakers who ended the 2010 regular session with overrides of 11 of the governor's vetoes.

Here is a list of some of the measures revived today:

A government watchdog activist was injured and another was arrested yesterday during a protest over prayer at the state Legislature.

At least eight Hawaii lawmakers may leave office following this year's legislative session.

A drop in sulfur dioxide released from an eruption on Kilauea volcano's east side might mean the eruption is finally running out of gas after 27 years, scientists say.

Some of the best minds in social media are here for a two day conference on creating a business strategy using social media tools.

Work continues on efforts to cover up contaminated soil on the site of the future Target and Safeway stores in Hilo, where high levels of arsenic, dioxins and petroleum compounds have been found.

A state senator says the Department of Public Safety broke state and county laws and administrative rules during last year's closure of Kulani Correctional Facility.

Bowing to the inevitable, county and state officials emerged Wednesday from a closed-door strategy session determined to fill the hole in Big Island tourism left by the loss of Japan Airlines flights to Kona International Airport.

The state Department of Transportation assured residents Wednesday evening there will be no more protests to delay work on the Queen Kaahumanu Highway widening project and construction of the second phase is expected to begin in the fall.

Maui County Council members on Wednesday debated proposals to require the Department of Environmental Management to come up with a plan to recycle more wastewater and conduct sampling for water contamination before spending money to rehabilitate existing injection wells.

Many Kauai community members who closely followed the progression of the bill seeking to allow leashed dogs on the entire shared-use path were baffled when the author of the bill voted to defer it, sending it back to committee for possible amendments

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Loss of JAL big blow to Big Island, state tourism up, great time for lava peepers, newspaper consolidation starts Monday, Navy to resume war games offshore, Legislature's last day, more top Hawaii news

Hawaii officials say they hope to get Japan Airlines to reconsider its decision to end Kona service, or find another carrier to do it.

Japan Airlines plans to reduce daily airlift into Hawaii by about 800 passengers a day, eliminate its Kona route despite lobbying from state leaders, and add a flight from Haneda International Airport to Honolulu as part of the company's government-backed bankruptcy restructuring.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority reported improving visitor arrivals and visitor spending across the state in March, the agency said Tuesday.

Maui island led all others in the state in drawing the highest percentage increases in visitor arrivals and in tourist spending in March, compared with the same month last year, state tourism officials said Tuesday.

Under a new law landowners will be responsible for maintaining an open corridor on the beach.

State lawmakers gave final approval yesterday to a bill that would authorize $67 million from the state's Hurricane Relief Fund to eliminate teacher furloughs next school year.

State lawmakers have given final approval to the use of $67 million from the Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund toward restoring public school furlough days and now wait to see whether an agreement can be reached to return teachers and students to the classrooms.

A domestic violence resolution designed to make sure judges stick to the law and not grant batterers child custody, is just one final house vote away from passing.

Hawaii County Fire Chief Darryl Oliveira and South Kona Councilwoman Brenda Ford are cheering a bill the state Legislature passed Tuesday giving counties control over fireworks.

The House and Senate passed into a law on Tuesday a bill that raises the maximum salary for the state department of education superintendent and other department officials.

A naval exercise that brings to Hawai'i's shores thousands of service members from the U.S. and foreign nations, an aircraft carrier, beach landings — and millions in Waikīkī tourist dollars — is returning between late June and early August.

State Sen. Will Espero doesn't believe for a second that the end of the "birther" conspiracy theory is near, but he hopes lawmakers gave understaffed and overwhelmed Health Department officials a new tool against persistent requests for President Obama's Hawai'i birth certificate.

Despite the fact that Honolulu’s special congressional election has largely been reported as a race between three familiar, highly polarizing politicians, the ballots that will begin to appear in Honolulu voters’ mailboxes next week will feature the names of 14 candidates.

The consolidation of Honolulu's two rival dailies is expected to begin one minute after midnight on Monday when Honolulu Star-Bulletin owner Black Press concludes its purchase of The Honolulu Advertiser from Gannett Co.

A city audit has found that nearly 40% of high-rise residential buildings on Oahu did not undergo fire inspections every two years as required.

The Honolulu Fire Department hasn't caught up with the computer age, leaving it with incomplete records of the island's 600-plus residential high-rises and the violations and hazards found in them, according to the city auditor.

A broad, slow-moving flow has come within a few dozen feet of the county's public viewing area.

A proposal to cut the Maui County's work force by eliminating vacant positions could result in disruptions of county operations and services, department directors warned Tuesday.

A Kauai County bill still in the germinating stage may lead to the explicit legalization of hundreds of existing transient vacation rentals on agricultural land.

The U.S. Army's plan to monitor the air over Pohakuloa Training Area for depleted uranium has drawn sharp criticism from some Native Hawaiians, environmentalists, activists and independent experts. Now the Army has gotten an admonishment from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Legislature passes budget avoiding GET increase but grabbing high-tech credits, veil of secrecy drawn over business complaints, tourism looking up, state's two largest newspaper merger OK'd by court, Maui trims budget, more top Hawaii news

State lawmakers on Tuesday passed a $10.2 billion budget that included many fee and tax hikes, but avoided an increase in the general excise tax.

The Hawaii legislature passed a flurry of bills Tuesday, covering everything from fireworks to requests for President Obama's birth certificate to shark fin soup. More than 60 other bills also passed the final House and Senate votes Tuesday.

With Furlough Fridays on their minds, lawmakers took steps to ensure a minimum number of instructional days for public school students while leaving it up to voters to decide on a measure aimed at increasing accountability in the system.

A conflicted state Senate, under threat of potential lawsuits, voted yesterday to end a high-technology tax credit program early and temporarily suspend investors' ability to claim the credits to help with the state's budget deficit.

Gov. Linda Lingle is saying no to oil barrel tax increases, plus jumps in traffic abstract fees and estate taxes.

As expected, Gov. Linda Lingle on Tuesday vetoed the state Legislature’s attempt to block her from reorganizing the state Department of Human Services.

State lawmakers on Tuesday passed legislation that would shield from public view thousands of complaints about real estate agents, contractors, doctors, barbers and other licensed professionals.

Hawaii lawmakers have passed a constitutional amendment proposal that would mandate an appointed Hawaii State Board of Education.

A rebound in Hawai'i's visitor arrivals and spending gathered momentum in March, boosting sales at many businesses.

Hawaii's two largest newspapers, the Honolulu Advertiser and the Star Bulletin will be merging. What many have feared is about to happen, Honolulu will become a one paper city. Hundreds of employees will be laid off and the Advertiser staff is expected to take the biggest hit.

Black Press, the Canadian-based parent of the 128-year-old Honolulu Star-Bulletin, received approval yesterday from the U.S. Justice Department to conclude its purchase of its longtime rival, The Honolulu Advertiser.

Property tax increases would be blunted, and transportation programs and social service grants would get a boost, under a budget proposed Monday by Maui County Council Budget and Finance Committee Chairman Joe Pontanilla.

The University of Hawaii at Hilo has announced five finalists for the university's top job.

Residents have until Friday to turn in their obsolete televisions, computers and other electronic waste without charge to the drop sites in Hilo and in Kona.

The Hawaii visitor industry has rolled out a package of incentives it hopes will persuade Japan Airlines officials not to cancel a daily flight between Narita International Airport and Kona International Airport.

In-car smoking ban raises legal questions

The Hawaii County Department of Water Supply manager said he'll welcome an investigation into the contract process for an Ocean View well project.

A federal jury Monday found Kevyn Paik, 47, and James Alan Duarte, 48, both of Kaua‘i, guilty of multiple wire-fraud and mail-fraud offenses involving the award and performance of contracts for work at the Hanalei Wildlife Refuge, a federal press release states.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hawaii GOP congressional candidate gets no help from RNC, Lingle vetoes local jobs bill, no aloha for seabirds, civil union advocates launch last-ditch lobbying efforts, more top Hawaii news

Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed legislation Monday that would have mandated state and county construction projects employ a workforce consisting of at least 80 percent Hawaii residents.

A bill mandating that a majority of government construction jobs go to Hawai'i workers was vetoed by Gov. Linda Lingle yesterday.

A bill to help local labor unions put local workers on the job was vetoed yesterday by Gov. Linda Lingle, who said it was vague and hard to enforce.

Gov. Linda Lingle's suggestion that teachers voluntarily return to classrooms to end the last three furlough Fridays this year landed with a thud yesterday.

The National Republican Congressional Committee has poured nearly a half-million dollars into the special election battle for Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District — and spent virtually nothing in a special election the same week in Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District.

State Sen. Sam Slom and Hawaii Reporter Editor Malia Zimmerman were expected to submit a final bid today to buy the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

Conservationists hailed a Hawaii Supreme Court ruling in early April as a victory in their fight against Turtle Bay resort on Oahu's North Shore. But it could also have a wide-ranging impact on other developments throughout Hawaii.

Civil-union supporters made door-to-door visits at the state Capitol yesterday in a last-minute pitch to push state representatives to vote on a bill they tabled early in the legislative session that will end Thursday.

A warning for drunk drivers - it's homestretch for a three-year battle to get Hawaii on board with nearly the rest of the country.

Most parents hope that Hawaii will never again be in the situation where the children's classroom time is taken away to help close a state budget shortfall.

Mayor Billy Kenoi's latest trip to see the Legislature likely helped preserve roughly $18 million for Hawaii County, says one state lawmaker.

Although Maui County hasn't banned the use of cell phones while driving, police officers often see how dangerous the practice can be.

"Maui's Only Air Show" takes off Saturday morning at the old Puunene Airport, with model airplane flight demonstrations, pylon racing and World War I and II dogfights.

The man in charge of county parks said he thinks it is absurd to consider turning off stadium lights and other illumination just to preserve endangered native seabirds.

Hawai'i has long been dependent on imports for nearly all of its fuel and most of its food.

Monday, April 26, 2010

27 years of vog, Legislature enters home stretch, wildlife returns to Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve, farm housing coming to Kauai, more top Hawaii news

It has been 27 years since Kilauea started erupting and two since a new vent at Halema'uma'u Crater opened, doubling the amount of emissions and changing life for the thousands who live in Pahala and other rural communities downwind from the volcano.

Gov. Linda Lingle last night asked all public school teachers and principals to volunteer to return to the classrooms without pay for the remaining three furlough days of the school year as a "gesture to heal our community."

Budget battles. School furloughs and hotel tax money.

With less than a month to go and the contest apparently as tight as a drum, the three major candidates for Hawaii's vacant congressional seat and their allies are sharpening their attacks on each other.

As the election season heats up, Hawaii News Now along with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs is proud to present the first live, televised debate of campaign 2010: "Race for Congress - the Special Election."

The first amphibious insects ever found are rare Hawaii caterpillars that can live under two feet of rushing water or on a hot dry rock and commute back and forth.

Fish, turtles and birds have returned to Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve since it was closed to people two years ago, but the shutdown is set to expire at the end of July.

Hawaii County Department of Water Supply customers will soon have their chance to weigh in on whether agricultural water users should continue to get a water subsidy.

Two and a half years in the making, a bill that would allow farmers to build additional dwellings for their  workers is two steps away from becoming law.

Heavy fog precipitated a series of multiple-vehicle wrecks along the same stretch of Highway 19 in Waimea on Saturday.

Friday, April 23, 2010

State budget pau, Neighbor Islands income gap widens, congressional race a national fight, Thirty Meter telescope advances, more Hawaii news

With last-minute negotiations still under way, House and Senate leaders say they have finished a budget that is about the same size as the one proposed by Gov. Linda Lingle in December.

State House and Senate leaders reached agreement last night on a $10.2 billion state budget, but they will not decide until today whether they need to take hotel room tax revenue from the counties to close the deficit and balance the state's six-year financial plan.

State lawmakers approved $48 million for the long-awaited University of Hawaii West Oahu campus in Kapolei. The budget committee voted on the state’s construction budget late last night.

The DOH announced Thursday that 10 people on Oahu recently became ill after eating raw ahi.

As the state struggles with agonizing school furloughs and a widely criticized power structure, a man who wants to be Hawaii's next governor says he has a plan to make things better.

National Democrats took another swipe at Charles Djou while Djou took aim at Colleen Hanabusa and Ed Case's wife made an appeal for funds as the major candidates for the special election for Congress head into the final week before ballots are mailed to voters next Friday.

The personal income disparity between Honolulu and the Neighbor Islands grew in 2008, according to a new report from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Hoteliers turned out Wednesday to beg Maui County officials not to impose a property tax rate increase on them, saying it would be so burdensome it could lead to more layoffs at resorts that are already in the red.

Gov. Linda Lingle said that state legislators are so overwhelmed by budget issues that they have lost sight of the need to create jobs.

The final environmental impact statement for the Thirty Meter Telescope cleared another hurdle.

The governor has yet to select one of two names submitted as candidates for East Hawaii's spot on the University of Hawaii Board of Regents.

Two people died Wednesday morning when the microlight aircraft they were flying in crashed into Kealakekua Bay.

An agreement signed Wednesday morning by Mayor Bernard P. Carvalho Jr. on behalf of the county and Kevin Showe of Kaua‘i Development LLC conveyed 138 acres of oceanfront property adjacent to Lihu‘e Airport from Kaua‘i Development LLC to the County of Kaua‘i.

Two Radford High School teachers accused of soliciting a prostitute pleaded no contest Thursday, and will likely avoid being officially convicted.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Honolulu Hale pushing tax hikes, Hawaii renters pay the most, Big Island bans smoking when kids in car, H1N1 hits Maui school, more top Hawaii news

A 3-cent increase in the tax on gasoline and a 30-cent hike in the real property tax rate for non-occupant homeowners advanced yesterday as Honolulu City Council members crafted their budget with a wary eye on lawmakers in the state Legislature.

After 8 hours of testimony, Honolulu City Council members are still in disagreement over the city budget.

At a time when Hawai'i families are weathering pay cuts and job losses, here's more gloomy news: The income needed to afford a modest two-bedroom rental in the Islands rose by nearly $3,000 this year to $64,396 annually — $26,000 more than the national average, a report on housing affordability shows.

State House and Senate leaders will likely turn to the state's Hurricane Relief Fund to eliminate teacher furloughs after budget negotiators agreed last night to remove furlough money from the state budget draft.

Hours after a breakthrough agreement yesterday to give counties the option to ban fireworks, lawmakers learned that the deal could fall through because of an obscure rule governing the negotiations.

State lawmakers on Wednesday agreed on a bill that is poised for final approval to allow the counties to come up with their own fireworks prohibitions stricter than the state's.

The Honolulu City Council has endorsed a proposal to support federal recognition for Hawaiians.

Pakalolo was the hot-button topic Tuesday when Police Chief Harry Kubojiri and other top cops met with the public in Volcano Village.

Police will have greater access to downtown Kailua-Kona next month when officers begin patrolling the Alii Drive area on mountain bikes.

It probably won't be enforced, proponents conceded, but a ban on smoking in cars when kids are present will be the law following a Hawaii County Council vote Tuesday afternoon.

An outbreak of H1N1 in two classrooms at a Maui elementary school has prompted state health officials to remind residents of the continued need to be vaccinated against the virus.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

New telescope for Mauna Kea, Kilaueau lava wowing viewers, civil union supporters push for reforms, Legislature targets birthers, Maui councilman runs for mayor, Miss Teen Hawaii dies from stroke, more

Following years of delays, a new telescope was lowered in pieces into its new home.

Lava from Kilauea Volcano's east rift zone has inched closer to the Kalapana viewing area, meaning visitors can get a closer look at the flows.

Supporters of civil unions are making a new push for legislative action before the current session ends next Wednesday.

A proposal aimed at stopping repeated requests for information from so-called "birthers" might also shut out legitimate information requests by the public, says a University of Hawaii professor opposed to the measure.

As the end of the legislative session draws closer lawmakers were working at the Capitol Tuesday night.

Hawaiian Electric Co. was looking into the cause of an outage that left 1,200 customers without power in the downtown area Tuesday afternoon.

Many users of the city's park recreational programs are expected to testify at Honolulu Hale today that they don't want to see senior, youth and other activities cut.

Miss Hawaii Teen dies from sudden stroke

Maui County Council Member Sol Kaho'ohalahala has decided to seek the mayor's office rather than re-election to the council's Lanai residency seat.

The entrepreneur who created a virtual marketplace that connects sellers and buyers worldwide is launching an online news site where people will pay to exchange ideas and discuss issues affecting their communities.

The Kaua‘i County Council’s review sessions for Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.’s proposed $146.29 million operating budget next year wrapped up Tuesday without much of the glamour of its opening day less than two weeks earlier.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Live-aboards hit with stiff rent increase, surfboard chomped by shark, coral regrowing in harbor, U.S. Justice looking at Star-Bulletin bids, more news

Boaters living on their vessels at Ala Wai and Ke'ehi small boat harbors are facing a more than 330 percent increase in rent, forcing many of them to rethink their living options.

An estimated 14-foot-long tiger shark chomped the tail end off a local surfer's board yesterday afternoon in Hanalei Bay, witnesses said.

Bids to buy the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, including several that involve assets not for sale, are being reviewed by the U.S. Justice Department, according to sources familiar with the deal.

Voters will decide this fall whether to give the state Legislature the power to divert money intended for tax rebates to help finance a "rainy day fund" for economic emergencies.

The world’s largest real estate services firm says retail vacancies in Hawaii are at a four year high. CB Richard Ellis said vacancies rose 1.1 percent in the past year.

No shopping carts, and no tents without a permit - that's the ban Honolulu police started enforcing on Monday at Oahu city parks.

Officials at Waters of Life Public Charter School hope summer classes will help bring to a close a difficult chapter for the school.

Fire gutted three classrooms in "G" Building at Kahului Elementary School early Sunday, forcing officials to scramble for space and supplies to allow displaced teachers and students to hold classes today.

Where once coral was destroyed to build a harbor, it has regrown, presenting a new environmental obstacle to its expansion.

Hawaii County administration argued against yet another County Council attempt to address infrastructure inadequacies, claiming a policy is in place to deal with those problems.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Homeless find a way, Neighbor Islands gaining clout in gubernatorial contest, DLNR rules slammed, school tax district takes shape, more Hawaii news

When police start enforcing a ban on camping tents and shopping carts in city parks as early as today, some of the homeless who live in Kapiolani Park say they will sit back and watch -- under large umbrellas or other legal shelter.

In the 1970s, then-Honolulu Mayor Frank Fasi famously lost two close gubernatorial campaigns against Gov. George Ariyoshi by capturing the most votes on O'ahu only to be drubbed by the incumbent on the Neighbor Islands.

The state Division of Aquatic Resources could shut down operations on Maui and other Neighbor Islands under a budget plan being considered by the state Legislature, officials are warning.

State Sen. Clayton Hee is rallying support for legislation he introduced that would make Hawaii a leader in the global fight to end shark finning.

The volcano in Iceland continues spew out tons of ash bringing air traffic to a stop in much of Europe.

Five candidates for the post of chancellor of the University of Hawaii Hilo will be visiting the campus and holding community meetings to demonstrate their visions for the school.

The state will soon have the authority to impose impact fees on all West Hawaii developments.

The Kauai Department of Public Works has already been challenged with vacancies and budget reductions in the current year.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Volcanic cloud hampers U.S.-Europe flights, Tea party rally draws 1k+, Hanabusa leading cash race, new scope heading to Mauna Kea, more top Hawaii news

The bottom fell out of travel plans for thousands of U.S. airline passengers Thursday as dozens of flights between the U.S. and Europe were canceled, part of a global disruption in air travel as clouds of ash from a volcano in Iceland forced widespread closures of European airports.

Dissatisfied with the government and brandishing messages such as "Taxed Enough Already" and "Enough Is Enough," hundreds of protesters rallied at the state Capitol yesterday to deliver a message to lawmakers: "No more taxes."

It's not necessarily paying taxes that ticks off the Tea Party supporters.

State Senate President Colleen Hanabusa has opened a fundraising advantage on her rivals in the May special election for Congress and can count on additional resources from U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye and the state's powerful labor unions in the closing weeks of the campaign.

Mauna Kea's newest, smallest telescope should reach the summit today.

About $46 million in federal funding for child welfare services is ensnared in a disagreement between legislators and the state Department of Human Services.

Hawaii County Police Chief Harry Kubojiri says he desires more openness and transparency between his department and the public, but doesn't want his own performance review made public.

Tsunamis have the potential to flatten whole towns as demonstrated in Chile recently, but Hawai'i engineers are helping to create new building standards intended to prevent sweeping destruction here and elsewhere.

There are 3,000 stories on the Hawaii Literacy's Bookmobile, but right now, no one can read them.

A mainland developer's project continues to progress, as mandated by the state Land Use Commission, a county official said.

Saying there wasn't a legal basis allowing him to vacate an arbitrator's award, 2nd Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza on Wednesday confirmed the award reinstating two fired Maui Police Department officers.

In 1926, Kaua‘i’s 11 sugar plantations — Kilauea, Make‘e, Lihu‘e Plantation, Grove Farm, Kipu, Koloa, McBryde, Hawaiian Sugar at Makaweli, Gay & Robinson, Waimea and Kekaha — employed most of the island’s workforce.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Business secrecy bill advances, Legislature sends fuel tax bill to governor, Save Our Schools ends protest, Hansen's disease settlement only land route blocked by mudslide, the band plays on and more Hawaii news

Listeners swayed and tapped toes to the rhythms of the Royal Hawaiian Band yesterday, enjoying a 174-year-old tradition of free music that some lawmakers say might be too costly to continue.

A proposal to keep thousands of complaints filed against Hawaii businesses secret has been resurrected by the legislature this year without one public hearing.

The state House and Senate yesterday gave final approval to an increase in the barrel tax and a measure to halt a state plan to close eligibility offices on the Neighbor Islands that help the poor.

A bill to drastically raise the state tax on a barrel of oil dribbled out of the Legislature yesterday, but faces an uncertain future.

Lawmakers have made a move to block streamlining and layoffs at the Department of Human Services

Pau. That's word from the group protesting school furloughs. Members of Save Our Schools Hawaii, or S.O.S., have been camping out at the governor's office since last Wednesday.

The past week of heavy rain created a mudslide and serious damage to a footbridge on the "pali trail," which forced the National Park Service on Tuesday afternoon to close the only land route to the Kalaupapa Hansen's disease settlement, which remains accessible by plane or boat.

Former Honolulu City Councilman John Henry Felix has agreed to pay a $50,000 administrative fine to settle claims that he violated campaign financing laws, the highest amount ever paid to the state Campaign Spending Commission by a political candidate.

Verizon Wireless recently submitted an application to the Hawaii County Planning Department for approval to build a 54-foot cell tower behind Parker Ranch Shopping Center in Waimea.

Sticking to his promise in 2008, shortly before leaving office because of term limits, former Maui County Council Chairman Riki Hokama is making his return to politics.

A brush fire Wednesday morning scorched some five acres of former sugarcane lands across from the old Kekaha sugar mill.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Congressional candidates debate tax cuts, two protestors arrested at Capitol, Pirates of the Carribbean seeks extras, state revenues looking up, 817 state jobs gone, more Hawaii news

Former Congressman Ed Case and state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa said last night that they would likely vote to let President Bush-era tax breaks for the wealthy expire if elected to Congress, while Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou said he would extend the tax cuts.

Experience is not necessary for men interested in a part in “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” which begins filming on O‘ahu and Kaua‘i early this summer.

State sheriffs made good on their promises Tuesday night, arresting two furlough protestors who were camping out in the lobby of the governor's office.

Two Save Our Schools members were arrested last night for trespassing in Gov. Linda Lingle's office as they continued a sit-in to urge the governor to end Furlough Fridays now.

With just three months left in the state's fiscal year, tax revenues appear to be improving but are still down for the year, according to the latest un-audited numbers from the Department of Taxation.

Last summer, Gov. Linda Lingle said she wanted to cut up to 2,500 state jobs to reduce the budget deficit. That figure was later revised to 1,197 positions. As of last week, the state had eliminated 817 positions through layoffs or other actions.

In the years before mortgage lender Washington Mutual became the largest bank failure in American history, it routinely sent its top-performing mortgage lenders to Hawaii for retreats.

If the Big Island were for sale, the asking price would be nearly $3 billion less than a year ago.

Hawaii Permanente Medical Group is planning to open a South Kona office this fall, a spokeswoman for the company confirmed Monday.

More than 200 Federal Fire Department workers are being advised to look for unusual activity on their bank accounts, after allegations that an employee wrongfully accessed their personal information.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Poll shows Djou-Case tie in congressional race, citations continue in Furlough Friday sit-in, budget ax hovers over state, counties, more top Hawaii news

 Deputy sheriffs cited nine people with trespassing—including two for the second time—as the sit-in against Furlough Fridays continued yesterday in Gov. Linda Lingle's office.

Expecting vetoes by Gov. Linda Lingle, state House and Senate leaders yesterday placed several potentially contentious bills in position for final votes this week, including an increase in the barrel tax and an attempt to block the state from closing eligibility offices on the Neighbor Islands that help the poor.

As the state Legislature moves into its last three weeks, Democrats are positioning a series of tax law changes and tax increases that they hope will balance the budget without raising the general excise tax.

Honolulu City Council members yesterday said they were using a "paring knife," not an axe, to carve about $9.5 million from the city's $1.82 billion operating budget for the next fiscal year, but warned more drastic cuts would likely be needed.

A recent poll shows Republican Charles Djou is tied with Democrat Ed Case for the lead in Oahu’s special congressional election, according to The Atlantic magazine.

State sheriff's deputies tonight issued citations to nine adults who were occupying the governor's office on day 6 of a sit-in to pressure officials to end public school furloughs.

A group that has been calling on Governor Linda Lingle to settle the furlough situation received citations for a second straight weekday.

The state Department of Public Safety is looking into an incident on Friday in which a female correctional officer allegedly made a threat against state Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, D-14th (Halawa, Moanalua, Kamehameha Heights).

State tax collections were down 1.6 percent through the first nine months of the fiscal year, the state Department of Taxation reported Monday.

Hawaii lawmakers and their staff gathered at the Capitol rotunda to participate in the Habitat For Humanity's nail-driving contest.

The furlough proposed by Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. may not affect firefighters, but proposed budget cuts may impact the Kaua‘i Fire Department.

Despite the talk of change during the 47th annual Merrie Monarch Festival, some things stayed the same.

A Big Island assisted facility developer is looking to build a complex in West Hawaii.

Walgreens opened its second full-service store on Maui on Sunday, but it came with a demonstration against the store by members of the Hawaii Carpenters Union.

Monday, April 12, 2010

End of session crunch pushes tax bills, Furlough Friday protests get louder, alternative energy comes and goes in the islands, more Hawaii news

State House negotiators last night offered to significantly scale back a proposal to lift general-excise tax exemptions on several business activities and impose a new GET hike, a move that would generate $25.3 million — instead of about $100 million — to help contain the state's budget deficit.

Many tax breaks or exemptions for local businesses would be preserved under a tentative compromise bill set to move today at the Legislature.

The fifth day of a protest to end Furlough Fridays closed yesterday with bubbles, musicians, art and slam poetry at the state Capitol's rotunda as parents and students urged the governor to find a solution.

Confirmation hearings are tomorrow for the three men nominated by Gov. Linda Lingle to serve on the board that oversees the 10-campus UH system.

Hawaiian Airlines did the best job for fliers last year, closely followed by low-cost carrier AirTran, according to an annual study released today that rates the nation's 18 busiest airlines for the quality of their service.

The spotlight was on Hilo, Hawaii for nearly a week as work crews, spectators and halau after halau poured into town. At the Edith Kanaka'ole stadium, the stage was prepped early for practice performances.

Make that two years in a row for the men of Ke Kai O Kahiki.

A and B Properties, Inc., announced today that it has acquired Lanihau Marketplace, an 88,300-square-foot shopping center in Kailua, Kona.

Hawaii County's labor costs will increase roughly $150,000 a year under Mayor Billy Kenoi's forthcoming proposal to combine vehicle-repair and transportation functions.

Farming sunshine may not become a reality for Kaua‘i after all.

A multimillion-dollar research project to investigate converting Hawaii's last sugar plantation to biofuel crops could mean the end of an era of another kind: cane burning.

North shore papaya farmer Kenneth Kamiya said wild pigs are devastating his crops and cutting into his profits.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Parents and kids stage sit-in in governor's office, Merrie Monarch parade Saturday, Turtle Bay needs EIS, hotel occupancy rises, more Hawaii news

With sleeping bags, pillows, a baby stroller and a teddy bear, people continued a sit-in at Gov. Linda Lingle's outer office for the second day yesterday, demanding an end to furlough days at public schools.

Members of the group "Save Our Schools Hawaii" are trying to put the heat on Governor Lingle to end furlough fridays, They are camping out for a second night inside the reception area of her office.

Leaders in the state Senate remain divided over whether to raise the state general excise tax to balance the state budget.

A new report from a national environmental organization blasts Hawaii's aquaculture industry, saying it damages the environment and is not sustainable. Companies that farm fish in Hawaii dispute the report.

The Hawai'i Supreme Court yesterday ruled that an updated environmental impact statement is necessary to expand Turtle Bay Resort, reversing lower court decisions and handing a victory to opponents of the long-delayed development plan for the North Shore property.

Four great performances graced the stage of the Edith Kanaka'ole Multipurpose Stadium on Wednesday night in a show that echoed long into the night and into the hearts of thousands who watched.

More positive signs emerged for the state's hotel industry in February, with occupancy rising for the third consecutive month and a slowing in the decline of both room rates and revenue.

The new drought numbers are out and for the first time Hawaii has reached the worst level possible on the drought scale.

Hawaii County Council members favor delaying new energy-efficiency building standards, and want public hearings held on the issue.

The Hawaii County Council gave the go-ahead Wednesday to privatize the county's green waste collection and disposal, provided the Kealakehe transfer station remains open for residential drop off of green waste.

A plan that would charge parking fees at Honokohau Small Boat Harbor in Kailua-Kona drew strong opposition Wednesday evening at a state Department of Land and Natural Resources talk story.

It's billed as a compromise betwaeen commercial aquarium fish collectors and recreational divers and snorkelers.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Asian-American Dems play race card in congressional race, parents stage Capitol sit-in, Merrie Monarch in full swing, Royal Hawaiian Band could lose funding, more

It was a successful rescue. Wildlife experts have freed a trapped whale after a dramatic race against the setting sun.

A group of parents upset with Hawaii public school closures on furlough Fridays held a sit-in at the state Capitol on Wednesday.

Supporters of the Royal Hawaiian Band are gearing up for a fight to save what's believed to be the second oldest marching band in the United States.

Asian-American Democrats are criticizing the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for favoring a white former congressman from Hawaii over the Asian-American State Senate President in a hotly contested special election to represent a majority-minority Hawaii district.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's TV commercial slams Republican candidate Charles Djou, questioning his credibility on the jobs issue.

Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou said yesterday that new campaign advertisements against him by national Democrats are an "outside interference" in the special election for Congress and should be rejected by voters.

Within the next five years to 10 years, Hawaii's last sugar producer, Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Co. could be out of the topsy-turvy granulated sugar business and making much-desired biofuels, company, federal and state officials announced Wednesday afternoon.

Every year a Hilo crowd gathers at the Edith Kanakaole Multipurpose Stadium to watch Ho'ike night, which kicks off the Merrie Monarch Festival.

Underscoring the last-minute changes that sometimes occur during the free Hawaiian entertainment sessions at venues all over Hilo during Merrie Monarch Week, Hoku Award-winning performer Karen Keawehawaii was unexpectedly summoned from the audience on Tuesday to give a performance at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel. She wowed spectators with her powerful falsetto renditions of "Ku'uhoa" and "Pualilia."

O'ahu's housing market appears to have established a firm footing toward recovery, with sales activity in March marking the third consecutive month that single-family home median prices rose over the same month last year.

Starting Monday, independent tour operators won't be allowed inside Hilo Harbor unless they have pre-arranged passengers from cruise ships docked there.

Standing atop seven ancient Hawaiian burials, on a lot with at least 24 more, the house that Joe Brescia is building at Naue, on Kauai’s North Shore, has been the focus of protests and prayers, emotional meetings, a stand-off with police, sacred rituals, a months-long vigil and lawsuits — some of them still ongoing.

On a recent afternoon, rental cars filled the parking lots at Hapuna Beach State Park.

In an ideal world, Hawaii County would reuse, recycle or compost so much of its waste that landfills would be all but unnecessary.

With Mayor Billy Kenoi and the county Board of Ethics singing out of different hymnals, the Hawaii County Council Finance Committee on Tuesday postponed a bill tightening the ethics code until it could have both proposals on the table at the same time.

Mayor Charmaine Tavares racked up another early endorsement when the United Public Workers union announced its support for her re-election bid during a news conference Tuesday.

The Kaua‘i Fire Commission on Monday voted unanimously against a proposed change to the County Charter that would give the mayor more power to hire and fire the chief of the Kaua‘i Fire Department.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered Gay and Robinson to pay a fine of $110,000 for its failure to close 40 large-capacity cesspools, according to a press release Wednesday.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

State Legislature advances new taxes, canoe races to get farther away, Navy looks to the sun, congressional race heating up, more top Hawaii news

The Coast Guard and state boating officials are enforcing stricter safety guidelines that could put canoe races farther from harbor entrances and away from spectators.

State House and Senate lawmakers yesterday preserved an array of difficult and unpopular options to contain the state's $1.2 billion deficit, moving into the final weeks of the session with the tools — if not the consensus — to balance the budget.

Thirty-seven transactions that are now exempt from the state's 4 percent general excise tax would be subject to a tax of 1 percent starting July 1, and the tax on a barrel of oil would jump to $1.55 from a nickel under proposals advancing in the Legislature.

The Navy wants to increase up to sevenfold the state's solar power output as part of a militarywide effort in Hawai'i to reduce its dependency on foreign fossil fuels.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has contacted Hawaii Sens. Dan Inouye and Dan Akaka to inform them the committee might support former U.S. Rep. Ed Case in Hawaii's special congressional election, the political Web site Politico reported Tuesday.

Honolulu City Council members are growing increasingly skeptical that Hawaiian Waste Systems can fulfill a contract to ship 100,000 tons of municipal trash to the Mainland by the end of September.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Jarvis and its crew are back in Honolulu Tuesday night after a two month mission to crack down on illegal fishing in the South Pacific.

The 2011 APEC Summit meetings will bring 21 world leaders and 20,000 visitors to the state, and it's expected to pump millions of dollars into the state's economy, but hosting the nine day event comes with a big price tag.

County Council members have toured the site of a proposed 100-unit Hilo apartment complex, listened to area residents' objections and now appear ready to vote on the rezoning request.

Nearly $4 million in federal stimulus funds is headed for the Big Island to refurbish three public housing areas

Hawaii County wants to save about $2 million per year by privatizing its green waste collection and disposal, but some West Hawaii residents worry the Department of Environmental Management is going to leave them holding the bag.

Three years of budget cuts have led to some bleeding from balance sheets, including those of the nonprofit organizations that rely on Maui County dollars to aid ever-growing numbers of people needing help in the economic downturn.

In a move to cut costs at a time of a projected $56 million budget shortfall, Maui Mayor Charmaine Tavares has proposed slashing, but not eliminating, funds to two bus programs that serve Maui's elderly and disabled.

Kaua‘i Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. announced 17 county employees from the county’s different departments to the Employee Recognition Program and 2009 Service Awards coordinated by the county’s Personnel Services Department.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Three bids for Star-Bulletin, furlough opponents defeated, Merrie Monarch kicks off , woman sues judicial assistant, tsunami zones studied, more

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday affirmed a ruling that shields Hawai'i's teacher furlough program from a federal legal challenge by a group of special-education students and their parents.

The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals Monday upheld Hawaii's public school furlough program against a legal challenge from eight special education students and their parents.

Three bids to buy the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, including one that does not include assets listed in the sales offering, are being reviewed by the U.S. Justice Department and the state attorney general's office.

State Senate President Colleen Hanabusa and her top supporter, U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, are rejecting Washington rumors that Democrats are trying to get Hanabusa out of the special congressional election.

Inouye told KITV4 he is not concerned about a congressional newspaper report that U.S. House Democrats are considering throwing their support behind democrat Ed Case.

Child welfare advocates are rallying to save the remnants of Healthy Start, a nationally recognized child-abuse prevention program whose state funding shrank from $15 million two years ago to $1.3 million this fiscal year and which is now in danger of being eliminated altogether.

While the Lingle administration continues to study the impact of the new federal health care reform law on Hawaii's landmark Prepaid Health Care Act, key state lawmakers say they do not believe it will negatively affect island residents.

A current state court judge’s assistant at the Lihu‘e courthouse has in a lawsuit accused a former supervisor of sexual harassment, retaliation, defamation, infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy and damage to her marriage.

George Na'ope was a hula master like no other and a colorful figure whose small shadow looms large this week over the Merrie Monarch Festival he co-founded.

Hundreds of homes and businesses in areas long believed to be safe from a tsunami could be added to O'ahu's evacuation map in light of new research.

The committee drafting a new platform for the state Republican Party has dropped language that some interpreted as support for federal legislation to establish a governing entity for native Hawaiians.

Japan resident Kanayo Miyagawa pulled out her camera and asked friend, Taeko, to pose in front of Scandinavian Shave Ice in Kailua-Kona.

A local doctor and his mentor are at the heart of a Maui Memorial Medical Center pilot project that treats irregular heartbeats and reduces the risk of stroke.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Case to get nod from national Dems, WWII wreck ID'd, diseases plague palms, corn, APEC bill $28M and climbing, more top Hawaii news

A rash of palm deaths in Kona and Hilo has some folks fearing that we may have a new disease on the island.

A corn virus that plagued Kaua‘i in the early 1990s has reared its diseased head again but maize chlorotic mottle is “still in a fairly isolated geographical area,” said Pioneer Hi-Bred International Business and Community Outreach Manager Cindy Goldstein.

A decade has passed since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a law preventing non-Hawaiians from electing trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

A World War II-era wreck off South Maui first documented in January has been identified as an SBC-2 Helldiver, ditched in Maalaea Bay on a training flight by a Navy pilot in 1944.

Each day, two boat tour operators head out to the waters off Oahu's North Shore to give the dozens of tourists aboard a close-up look at sharks. They toss bits of bloody fish into the water to attract the predators.

A plan to turn around Hawai'i's lowest-performing schools has the potential to deliver some of the most dramatic change ever seen in the state's public education system.

Unlike most of the country, it is against the law in Hawaii for politicians to plaster their faces, names and slogans on billboards or utility poles.

A congressional newspaper reported that U.S. House Democrats are considering backing former Congressman Ed Case over State Senate President Colleen Hanabusa in the special congressional election.

Preserving history. The state may be forced to take on the financial burden of our historic sites, like Honolulu Hale and the State Capitol.

The state does not require operators of residential care homes to carry commercial liability insurance, exposing yet another gap in the safety net for vulnerable seniors in Hawai'i's long-term-care system.

The anticipated taxpayer bill for hosting next year's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting is $28 million and climbing.

Despite calling for a "shared sacrifice on everyone's part," Mayor Billy Kenoi wants more discretionary spending and staff than he and former Mayor Harry Kim needed last fiscal year.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Hawaii skittish about census, swine flu shot, not so much, Legislature, Lingle grapple with budgets, no interest in Hamakua land sales, more top Hawaii news

Hawaii's participation in the 2010 Census, so far among the worst in the nation, is raising concerns about whether the state will again lose out on millions of dollars in federal funding.

Hawai'i is among the nation's leaders in swine flu vaccinations and health officials here credit an aggressive educational program for much of the success.

The leaders of the state Legislature's two money committees continue to criticize Gov. Linda Lingle's handling of the state budget shortfall.

Hawaii hotels have performed better in the economic slump than key rival destinations, despite cutting room rates less.

Maui coral reef lovers came looking for answers Tuesday night from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources about an accident in which state officials and private contractors dropped 125 concrete slabs onto the Keawakapu artificial reef.

A day after votes by Hawai'i lawmakers and the teachers union renewed pressure for resolution of the state's teacher furlough mess, Gov. Linda Lingle's office released new details about the "nonessential" personnel that have become a $30 million sticking point in the controversy.

One Big Island lawmaker wants police and fire personnel to forgo pay raises for a year to share in the sacrifices most other government workers are making.

The popular Peppa's Korean BBQ on South King Street was shut down yesterday by the state Department of Health after seven people were diagnosed with E. coli poisoning last month, four of them requiring hospitalization.

An April Fool's Day joke on KUMU-FM that the upcoming Merrie Monarch Festival was canceled because of the recent deaths of three hula legends, left many in Hawaii dismayed Thursday morning.

Award-winning songwriter Roslyn Catracchia says her prayers have been answered. Honolulu police recovered her stolen computers Thursday and they still contained her prized compositions.

When it comes to selling its Paauilo lands, Hawaii County is batting .000.

Rows of tables, stacks of documents, piles of pens. The Hawaii County Finance Department was ready. In fact, only one thing was missing from the much heralded bid opening for the first Hamakua land sale -- bidders.

As the Kaua‘i section administrator in the state Department of Human Services Benefit, Employment and Support Services Division, on Monday she had the unenviable task of hand-delivering letters of layoff to 22 of her co-workers.

The county's long-term solid waste management plan is up for review Tuesday by a Hawaii County Council committee.

In 2008, James Koshiba helped launch Kanu Hawaii, a nonprofit that promotes and supports Island-style sustainability.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

U.S. senators on the Big Island, furlough deal still in works, reports show government waste, Hilton Hawaiian Village growing, more top Hawaii news

The Army National Guard accepted six new Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters on Tuesday in a dedication attended by both of Hawaii's U.S. senators.

Laulima -- cooperation -- was cited repeatedly during Tuesday's groundbreaking ceremony at the site of the future Ane Keohokalole Highway.

The House Finance Committee late Wednesday night approved a plan that would end furlough Fridays, but it left open the amount that would be funneled from the state's Hurricane Relief Fund.

Hawaii State Teachers Association members overwhelmingly voted to support a $92 million supplemental agreement that would end Furlough Fridays in public schools.

April 12th. That's the deadline lawmakers have set for the governor, teachers union and Board of Education to come up with a consensus to end school furloughs.

A proposed audit of the Department of Taxation now in the hands of the Senate Ways and Means committee is related to allegations from current and former department employees about state-level mismanagement of tax dollars.

Hawaii’s Department of Education paid $17,100 to a restroom cleaning consultant and $1.7 million for substitute clericals, according to a new report from The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii (GRIH) and premiere taxpayer watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW).

More than 350 bankruptcy cases were filed in March -- the highest monthly total in nearly 41/ 2 years -- as individuals and businesses in the state continued to struggle with the recession.

The seven-tower Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa plans to add two more timeshare towers as part of its most significant 10-year master plan since the resort opened in 1955.

New laws that prohibit unauthorized tents and shopping carts in city parks are now official. Mayor Mufi Hannemann on Wednesday signed the two bills into law and police will begin enforcing the restrictions on April 19.

A group of builders, environmental groups, lawyers and public agencies and institutions has been quietly meeting in private to help shape the first overhaul of Hawai'i's environmental laws in 40 years, even as lawmakers hold public hearings on a bill that is likely to go nowhere this session.

Critics say State Sen. Colleen Hanabusa's new TV commerical does not tell the whole story when she says she helped cut legislative salaries.

Crime is up, but Hawaii County police and prosecutors are trying to hold the line on their budgets.

Maui County welcomed 174,027 visitors in February, a gain of more than 7 percent compared with the same month last year. Every other county showed an erosion in the already weak traffic count, although small ones.

Former Maui Police Department officer Allison Moore pleaded not guilty Tuesday to 25 charges, including deceiving the department, tampering with evidence, drug possession and forging doctors' notes.

The unemployment rate for Kaua‘i held steady in February at 9.1 percent, according to recently released statistics from the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.