Showing posts with label fraud. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fraud. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Lawmakers advance bills fighting felony fraud, Elon Musk Starship may land near Kauai, homeless relocation bill advances, measles spotted on Oahu, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

Bribery scandal that rocked state Capitol could inspire powerful new laws aimed at fighting fraud. A sprawling government bribery scandal may lead to powerful new state laws against fraud based on the same federal statutes that sent two lawmakers in prison. Three proposed new laws would make it much easier to prove felony fraud or lying to government or in business transactions.  Hawaii News Now.

Priced-out Hawaii residents check out of paradise. Gov. Josh Green and state lawmakers frequently cite the ongoing threat of losing residents and are pushing legislation to help residents stay. With less than a month before the end of the legislative session, several measures designed to lower Hawaii’s cost of living remain alive. Star-Advertiser.

Proposed homeless relocation program flies to Senate floor for consideration. A bill at the state Legislature would create a three-year pilot program at the Department of Human Services to help people experiencing homelessness return to the continent, or other parts of the state, to rejoin their families. Hawaii Public Radio.

Fragments in Republican caucus lead to more bipartisan work for one state lawmaker. Republicans in the state House of Representatives tripled in size this session, from two to six members. In title, state Rep. Kanani Souza of Kapolei and Makakilo is the minority caucus whip, but she hasn’t attended minority caucus meetings since the end of January. Hawaii Public Radio.

Condo Management Giant’s License Is Reactivated By Hawaii Regulators. Following a regulatory compliance problem that rendered Associa Hawaii unable to practice in the state, the property management giant has come into compliance with state laws governing such firms, state records indicate. Civil Beat.

Hawaiʻi teens lead second youth climate change trial in US history. A climate change lawsuit brought by a group of Hawaiʻi's youth against the state Department of Transportation is moving ahead. It's now scheduled for a fall trial. Hawaii Public Radio.

Hawaii Health Department confirms measles in Oahu resident. State health officials are investigating a case of measles in an unvaccinated Oahu resident upon returning from international travel.  Star-Advertiser. Tribune-Herald. Maui Now.  Hawaii News Now. KHON2.  KITV4. 


Honolulu City Council studying its own tax-relief measures. A slew of real property taxation measures that might offer tax credits, tax exemptions or other means to aid homeowners affected by the approximately 10% or greater increase in real property assessments on Oahu is under consideration by the Honolulu City Council. Star-Advertiser.

Why Does It Take So Long To Fire Bad Cops In Honolulu? Recent national stories report officers involved in shootings and other serious incidents are quickly fired. But in Hawaii final discipline can take years. Civil Beat.

Military to provide health care to civilians affected by Red Hill water.
The Defense Health Agency announced Monday that it will begin evaluating — and potentially providing medical treatment to — civilians affected by the Red Hill water crisis from now until March 10 on a “space available” basis. Star-Advertiser. Hawaii News Now.

Bishop Museum seeks recurring funding. State officials are working to establish annual funding for Bishop Museum to support and help stabilize Hawaii’s flagship repository of Hawaiian culture, science and community as it moves forward under its fourth CEO in the past seven years. Star-Advertiser.

Cirque du Soleil planning new show in Waikiki. Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group and Outrigger Hospitality Group have some high- flying news: They’ve entered into a joint venture that will add Hawaii next year to Cirque’s shortlist of destinations with shows in residence. Star-Advertiser. KHON2.  KITV4.

DOE Looking Into Financial Records Of Kailua School Composting Program. Proceeds from compost sales to the public are kept by the partner schools. Civil Beat.

Hawaii Island

Grand Naniloa woes linger: Owners again seek permission to refinance loan. The beleaguered owners of the Grand Naniloa Hotel are once again requesting to refinance its mortgage to the tune of $54 million. Tribune-Herald.

Merrie Monarch Festival attendees urged not to transport ‘ohi‘a. Merrie Monarch Festival attendees are urged to not transport ‘ohi‘a in order to prevent the further spread of rapid ‘ohi‘a death. Tribune-Herald.


Council committee to hear from Upcountry Maui residents on county budget Wednesday
. The Budget, Finance and Economic Development Committee will receive testimony from Upcountry Maui residents on the county’s fiscal year 2024 budget Wednesday, April 12, at 6 p.m. at Mayor Hannibal Tavares Community Center. Maui Now.

Draft EA filed for Hālau of ‘Ōiwi Art, construction expected to start in 2024.
The Hālau is designed to be a Hawaiian cultural and community center to help advance hula and native and local arts.  Maui Now.


Elon Musk Starship may land near Kaua‘i this month. The most powerful rocket ever built could splash down off the coast of Kaua‘i within the next two weeks, according to Elon Musk’s Twitter account. Garden Island.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

33 swimmers nabbed for alleged dolphin harassment, union leader's wife headed to prison, audit finds lots of credits but little housing, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

33 swimmers accused of “aggressively pursuing” a dolphin pod on Hawaiʻi Island.  Authorities today say they have referred 33 people to U.S. law enforcement after the group allegedly harassed a pod of wild dolphins in waters off the Big Island. Associated Press. Big Island Video News. Big Island Now. Maui Now. Hawaii News Now.  KHON2.

Bills to transform Hawaii’s school meals die in Senate. The bills aimed to provide cheaper and more locally sourced meals to the nearly 170,000 public and charter school students in Hawaii, although all appear to have been blocked in the state Senate Committee on Education. Star-Advertiser. Hawaii Public Radio.

‘All Hawaiian’ coffee labeling in lawmakers’ crosshairs.
To widely popular support, several bills in the state Legislature would prohibit coffee distributors from advertising their products using Hawaiian place names if an insufficient percentage of those products actually originated from those places. Tribune-Herald.

How each Hawaiʻi mayor plans to tackle the housing crisis on their island. From growing development funds to building housing for specific groups of people, mayors across the Hawaiian Islands are focusing their attention on housing initiatives this upcoming fiscal year. Hawaii Public Radio.

Former Union Leader’s Wife Headed To Prison For Fraud. Federal prosecutors said Marilyn Ahakuelo enjoyed an inflated salary and first-class travel on the union's dime. Ahakuelo who was convicted alongside her husband for embezzling from a local union and helping to fraudulently increase membership dues was sentenced on Tuesday to nearly six years in prison. Civil Beat. Star-Advertiser.  Hawaii News Now.  KITV4.


Aloha Stadium Has Already Cost Taxpayers $20M. Where’s All The Money Gone? The state and its consultants promised to deliver a world-class facility for uses beyond University of Hawaii football games, surrounded by a vibrant entertainment district that boasted housing, hotels, restaurants and stores. Instead, taxpayers were left footing ever-growing bills as the future of the stadium became increasingly unclear.  Civil Beat.

4 rail stations in project’s airport segment expected to be done by year’s end. The joint venture company that nearly seven years ago got an $875 million Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation contract to build elevated rail and stations from areas east of Halawa to Kalihi outlined its efforts this week. Star-Advertiser.

Federal review underway into handling of sick homeless man who spent days on ER sidewalk. The federal government is launching a review of how the Queen’s Medical Center responded to a homeless man who spent days on the sidewalk outside its ER in need of care. Hawaii News Now.

Service members sue over toxic Red Hill water. Three active-duty service members filed legal claims against the U.S government this week seeking compensation for health impacts and other damages they say they suffered when jet fuel from the Navy’s Red Hill facility contaminated their drinking water in 2021. Star-Advertiser. Hawaii News Now. KITV4.

Resolution working towards making The Ocean Safety Division its own department. The Honolulu Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Division is currently part of Honolulu's emergency services department. But now in discussion: House Concurrent Resolution 21, which would make ocean safety its own department. KITV4.

Plans to convert office space into condos. A plan to bring hundreds of residential apartments to Downtown Honolulu by converting office space into condos has led to a push to change the City’s housing code in order to move along the project. KHON2.

Hawaii Kai bridge in need of emergency repairs among dozens islandwide in poor shape. The Keahole Street Bridge in Hawaii Kai — between Costco and Safeway — is deteriorating, and the city says it’s looking into an emergency procurement to fix it. But the problems don’t stop here. Hawaii News Now.

Hawaii Island

Hawaiʻi County’s audit finds most affordable housing credits not resulting in new units. A new Hawaiʻi County audit revealed that of the 1,811 affordable housing credits issued since 1988, only 336 credits have resulted in the intended construction of affordable housing units, Hawai‘i County Auditor Tyler Benner recently told the County Council. Big Island Now.

Early morning blaze destroys bathroom at Old Kona Airport Park. Hawaii County announced that a structure fire has destroyed the only working bathrooms at the Old Kona Airport BeachPark. The Fire was reported at 3:51 a.m. and caused an estimated $750,000 in damages. West Hawaii Today. Big Island Video News.


Maui Clerk Rejects Petition Over Riki Hokama’s Residency. Questions about whether the County Council candidate met eligibility requirements to run for the Lanai seat lingered for months after the election. Civil Beat.

Phase 1 excavation complete at Haleakalā following 700 gallon fuel spill.
Phase 1 of excavation at the Maui Space Surveillance Complex was completed March 22, 2023, according to an update provided by the US Space Forces. This comes following a 700 gallon diesel fuel spill at the Maui Space Surveillance Complex in January. Maui Now.


Kauaʻi’s sole electric provider seeking 9.4% rate increase; public hearing March 28. Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative is asking the Public Utilities Commission to approve an increase of $16.7 million in its electric revenues, which currently is $177 million at present rates. Kauai Now.

Robots helping save lives on Kauai. Robots can be lifesavers, and that’s especially true for the Kauai Fire Department, which started using CPR robots. KHON2.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Hawaii businesses offer freebies for vets, audit slams Office of Hawaiian Affairs, 100 more join lawsuit against military over Red Hill, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

These Hawaii spots offering freebies for veterans. Friday, November 11 is Veterans Day and many businesses across the country are offering free items or nice discounts for veterans, active duty and retired military people. KHON2.

OHA Vows Accountability After Audit Finds Evidence Of ‘Fraud, Waste And Abuse’. A financial investigation released Thursday found 22 instances of questionable spending worth more than $7.3 million made by former top officials at the Office of Hawaiians Affairs. The findings were a follow-up to a 2019 report that initially flagged 38 transactions made from 2012 to 2016. Civil Beat. Hawaii News Now. KITV4.

County Ethics Watchdogs Need More Money To Do The Job Right, State Panel Says. The Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct says the grants will beef up bare-bones budgets that now exist in all counties except Honolulu, which spends more on its ethics board. Civil Beat.

Green’s proposed visitor fee might be popular with residents, but lawmakers appear cool on the idea.
One of the marquee elements of Gov.-KITV4.Josh Green’s agenda is a flat fee on all visitors to generate hundreds of millions of dollars for everything from erosion to parks. But it could already be in trouble at the Legislature ― a challenge that could be a test of his lobbying skills. Hawaii News Now.

Gov. David Ige reflects on wins and losses as his final inning comes to a close. Gov. David Ige is rounding third base and heading toward home as his last day in office approaches. Hawaii Public Radio. KHON2.

Voter Turnout For Hawaii General Election Plateaus At 48%. It’s the lowest general election turnout in the state’s history. Civil Beat.

On Election Day, this new tool helped speed up Hawaii’s delivery of voting results. New technology used on Election Day helped deliver voting results from more remote areas within minutes. The state Elections Office launched the Remote Rally system for the first time Tuesday and said it worked. Hawaii News Now.

Adult Learners Thought This Program Was A Path To College. They Were Wrong. Hawaii schools continued to operate a popular alternative diploma program from 2014 to 2019, despite it not meeting federal standards. Now some of those graduates are unable to access financial aid. Civil Beat.

The state Board of Education is appointed. It used to be elected. Is one way better? The governor nominates members, and the state Senate either confirms or rejects them. Hawaii Public Radio.

Hawaii agency picks 4 planned mid-income affordable-housing projects to subsidize. Four planned affordable-housing projects received state financing help Thursday under a new program to produce rental apartments for middle-income residents. Star-Advertiser.

New state funding will help expand nursing classes, but it’s a fraction of what’s needed. At a news conference last month, Gov. David Ige released $1.75 million to combat a severe faculty shortage at nursing schools across the state. Hawaii News Now.

In effort to expand healthcare services, VA opens first telehealth station in Hawaii. There are more than 55,000 registered veterans living in Hawaii but not all of them live near a VA clinic. This can make getting access to healthcare challenging but a new program by the Veterans Affairs Pacific Islands Health Care System is designed to bring healthcare services directly to vets. Hawaii News Now.

State Health Department warns of early rise of RSV rates. Health officials are warning of an early rise in cases of respiratory syncytial virus and influenza in Hawaii, similar to trends observed across the U.S. Star-Advertiser. Tribune-Herald. Big Island Video News. Big Island Now. Maui Now. Kauai Now. KHON2.


Over 100 new plaintiffs join Red Hill lawsuit against federal government. More than 100 military family members and civilians who were on the Navy’s Joint Base Pearl Harbor- Hickam drinking water system when it was contaminated with jet fuel in 2021 have joined a lawsuit suing the federal government, alleging military officials provided inadequate medical care in the days and months following the emergency. Star-Advertiser. Hawaii News Now. KITV4.

Former TV anchor defeats incumbent in state Senate race. Former TV news anchor Brenton Awa pulled off a come-from-behind win in the race for the state Senate seat that represents Kunia, the North Shore and parts of Windward Oahu. Hawaii News Now.

North Shore property owner offers to take down concrete barrier poured on Sunset Beach. A North Shore property owner who poured concrete on the berm behind his Ke Nui Road home has been granted more time by the city to remove the barrier. Hawaii News Now.

Hawaii Island

State clears the way for Meadow Gold expansion. An expansion of the state’s only dairy processing facility could be completed within two years. Meadow Gold Dairies Hawaii is seeking to double the size of its premises in Hilo, a move that could enable more dairy producers in the state. Tribune-Herald.

New Rules For Kahaluʻu Bay Surf Schools. The Hawaiʻi BLNR on Thursday voted to limit the number of companies and students participating in surf instruction in a specific area of Kahaluʻu Bay. Big Island Video News.

There when you need it: Waikoloa Loan Closet provides medical equipment for the community. Realtor Phyllis Klicker had closed on a home sale in Waikoloa Village and discovered the previous owner had left behind a cache of medical equipment. Not wanting to take it to the landfill, she decided to open the Waikoloa Loan Closet, making the equipment available free of charge to anyone in need.West Hawaii Today.


Temporary Wednesday closures implemented to address permit backlog. The Plans Review Section of the Zoning Administration and Enforcement Division will be closed to the public temporarily on Wednesdays beginning Nov. 16, 2022. Maui Now.

Maui police chief explains new tactics.
Joining KHON2 from the Valley Isle is Maui Police Dept. Chief John Pelletier, covering the island’s approach to concealed-carry permits, and the evolution of 21-century policing for Maui County. KHON2.

Man testifies about Maui beating he says was hate crime. A white man who says he was a victim of a hate crime when two Native Hawaiian men assaulted him while he was fixing up a home he purchased in their remote Maui village testified Wednesday that his attackers were racially motivated, even though he conceded that no racist comments can be heard in video taken during the 2014 beating. Associated Press.

Day 3: West Maui fire scorches 2,100 acres, burns mauka brush between Kahoma & Launiupoko. Firefighters continue efforts to contain a stubborn fire in West Maui has burned 2,100 acres since it was first reported on Tuesday. Maui Now.


Kaua‘i county council race shifts; Cowden and DeCosta in, Kagawa out. Late voting favored incumbent council members Felicia Cowden and Billy DeCosta, who passed former council member Ross Kagawa to slot into the sixth and seventh spots, respectively. Garden Island.

Kaua‘i Community College names Margaret Sanchez as interim chancellor. Under Sanchez’s leadership, Kauaʻi CC received more than $3.5 million in grants in support of its mission, including enabling the college to be a Native Hawaiian Indigenous-serving institution. Kauai Now.

Kauai Animal Shelter Buys 10 Acres With Plans To Grow. The Kauai Humane Society now owns the Lihue parcel where it has operated for more than two decades. Civil Beat.

Monday, November 7, 2022

Candidates gear up for final day of campaigning, Maui council caps vacation rentals, state lags in curbing Medicaid fraud, defamed doula wins damages in lactation porn case, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

The race for Hawai’i governor pits two men who have served as lieutenant governor. The 2022 race to replace term-limited David Ige for Hawaiʻi’s governor pits Democrat Josh Green, the state’s current lieutenant governor, against one of the state’s former lieutenant governors, Republican Duke Aiona. Kauai Now.

Hawaii’s down-ballot contests expect to be close races in this election. Every eligible voter in Hawaii should be able to cast consequential votes in Tuesday’s general election, even though many ballots lack competitive races for topmost offices. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii’s New Governor Will Have To Make Some Hard Decisions On Crime And Punishment. Something must be done about Hawaii’s overcrowded and run-down jails, or the courts may finally force the state to act. Civil Beat.

Final push to encourage Native Hawaiians to vote. Native Hawaiian community groups and organizations are working on their final push that seeks to draw out more native Hawaiians to participate in elections.  KHON2.

HTA president warns against adding extra fees for tourists. John De Fries, president of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, discussed the possibility of imposing usage fees upon visitors to offset their environmental impact, a policy proposed by gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Josh Green, who has suggested a $50 fee per person. Tribune-Herald.

Time to legalize it? With Gov. Ige leaving office, some think recreational pot legalization is inevitable. Although marijuana use for medical purposes has been available through dispensaries in Hawaii since 2016, recreational use of marijuana remains illegal, even as other states lower their pot restrictions. Tribune-Herald.

Despite plenty of potential cases, Hawaii lags in Medicaid fraud and abuse prosecutions. Hawaii has a huge population of people on Medicaid and thousands of health professionals, nursing home and care home operators taking care of them. But the law enforcement unit in charge of finding theft from the program and abuse of its patients has the lowest rate of charging crimes in the nation. Hawaii News Now.

‘Just A Number’: Parents Who Face Losing Their Kids Say Court-Appointed Attorneys Don’t Do Enough. A Civil Beat review found that parents almost never win on appeal, and that the appellate court finds procedural flaws in half the cases. Civil Beat.

Hawaiian Electric ordered to revamp power rate structure. Hawaii state laboratory reclaims full certification. The Pearl City lab handles some of the state’s most important work, testing hundreds of drinking water samples annually to ensure compliance with safe drinking water standards and analyzing hundreds of water samples from the nearshore waters to make sure they comport with clean water laws. Star-Advertiser.

In a landmark order that could set the tone for electricity rates across the country, the state Public Utilities Commission has ordered Hawaiian Electric to transform its existing power rate structure into one that better acknowledges the growing use of renewable energy. Star-Advertiser.

Defamed Doula Wins $52,000 In Punitive Damages In Lactation Porn Case.
The jury found women went too far warning each other about Danny “The Doula” Gallagher’s promotion of lactation erotica. Civil Beat.

JABSOM vaccine candidates could help with current Ebola outbreak and COVID. At his laboratory at the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine in Honolulu, researcher Axel Lehrer has several vaccine candidates that potentially could save lives around the globe. Star-Advertiser.


Two Socially Conservative Candidates Vie To Represent Kapolei’s HD42. In West Oahu, longtime Democratic Rep. Sharon Har faces Republican Party Vice Chair Diamond Garcia in perhaps her toughest competition yet. Civil Beat.

Military finishes moving 1M gallons of fuel from Red Hill pipelines to Pearl Harbor. Recovered fuel has been moved to above-ground tanks on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and oil barges at Hotel Pier for use. Hawaii Public Radio.

Honolulu Struggles To Revise Gun Laws After Supreme Court Decision. Honolulu is the only county in the state that hasn’t yet finalized new concealed-carry gun rules, leading to a backlog in permit applications. Civil Beat.

Honolulu EMS: 2 killed in small aircraft crash on Oahu’s North Shore. Two people were killed Saturday morning when a motorized glider crashed on Oahu’s North Shore. Honolulu EMS officials said the crash happened about 8:15 a.m. at Kaena Point. Hawaii News Now.

Police Found Guilty In Kealoha Case Fail To Overturn Convictions. Two former Honolulu police officers who were convicted for their roles in a conspiracy to frame an innocent man were unsuccessful in their appeals to reverse their findings of guilt, an appeals court ruled on Friday. Civil Beat. Hawaii News Now.

Oahu’s construction pipeline for hotel properties extends beyond Waikiki. There’s a wave of new hotel development on Oahu, where more than a dozen properties are in the planning or the construction pipeline with delivery goals between 2023 and 2027. Star-Advertiser.

Oahu home sales fall 42% for biggest drop of year. Sales of existing single-­family homes on Oahu in October suffered their biggest drop so far this year as fear of recession as well as rising mortgage rates, high home prices and stubbornly high consumer prices gave some buyers pause. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii Island

Help wanted: County government looking for workers with nearly a quarter of positions unfilled. Job stability. Competitive pay. Good benefits and retirement package. Strong union protection. It wasn’t that long ago that county jobs were considered plum positions, subject to intense competition and even political favoritism. West Hawaii Today.

More than 1,000 Big Island students held back a year. The number of students repeating grades for the 2021-22 school year in Hawaii County more than doubled from the year before. Tribune-Herald.

Waiakea Flood Reduction Project Moves Forward. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Hawaiʻi County’s Department of Public Works want to reduce the risk of flooding in residential areas near the Waiākea and Palai streams. Hawaii Public Radio. Big Island Video News.

Big Island home sales drop. The Big Island’s real estate market is feeling the effects of global uncertainty, with home sales dropping islandwide during the third quarter of the year. Tribune-Herald.


New cap creates “point-in-time freeze” on Maui TVRs; starts regulation on camper vans. In an ongoing effort to manage tourism, the Maui County Council passed Bill 159 Friday with a series of amendments that effectively caps transient accommodations and regulates camper van rentals on public property. Maui Now.

With election around corner, Bissen again tops contributions. Maui County mayoral candidate Richard Bissen Jr. continued to fetch an abundance of campaign contributions, with nearly $100,000 raised during the latest reporting period leading up to Tuesday’s general election. Maui News.

After close primary, Kama and Nobriga back for Round 2. The two emerged from a seven-candidate field in August. Maui News.

Maui County acquires 1.4 acres in ʻĪao Valley from Hawaiʻi Nature Center. The purchase surfaced for discussion in July when Mayor Michael Victorino transmitted a proposal to the Maui County Council to purchase the acreage and the structure that was the former ʻĪao Valley Lodge in ʻĪao Valley for $1.5 million from the Hawaiʻi Nature Center. Maui Now. Maui News.

2022 Made in Maui County Festival draws crowd of 7,000.
An estimated 7,000 residents and visitors attended the 9th Annual Hawaiian Airlines Made in Maui County Festival, held Friday and Saturday, Nov. 4 and 5, at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Kahului. Maui Now.


Kaua‘i elections by the numbers: Turnout lagging; council incumbents spend big. Kaua‘i County Elections Administrator Lyndon Yoshioka reported that Kaua‘i election turnout was 23 percent as of Wednesday night, compared with 27 percent statewide. Garden Island.

Kauaʻi community group trying to buy Coco Palms from Utah owners planning 350-room hotel. The current Utah-based owners of the once iconic Coco Palms Resort in Wailuā plan to build a new 350-room hotel on the site that once hosted A-list celebrities and the film production of Elvis Presleyʻs 1961 musical “Blue Hawai‘i.” Kauai Now.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Hawaiian Island of Lanai could be sold quickly, recycling audits secret, rail transit funds slashed, pension funds go unfunded, FBI increases Hilo presence, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

Lanai for sale
Hawaiian Island of Lanai
Los Angeles billionaire David Murdock is trying to sell the island of Lanai. The price is about $500 million. Pacific Business News.

Billionaire David Murdock and his company, Castle & Cooke Inc., are in discussions to sell Lanai in a deal that could alter the future of the former Pineapple Island and dramatically reduce Murdock's land ownership in Hawaii. Star-Advertiser.

The Hawaii Auditor's Office is not releasing several audits of the state's so-called bottle-bill program, reports that are key to tracking where millions of dollars in state money is going. Civil Beat.

Hawaii has funded just 61 percent of its $18.5 billion pension obligation for public sector workers — the 10th worst in the nation. Hawaii also has a $14 billion retiree health care liability that is unfunded. Star-Advertiser.

While independent candidates have had little electoral success in the islands, a handful have been elected to office. They are also part of a larger trend nationally away from traditional left and right divisions. Civil Beat.

A settlement will ensure the continued cleanup of lead-based paint that has killed thousands of Laysan albatross chicks at Midway Atoll, the Center for Biological Diversity said. Associated Press.

Hawaii's governor has signed a bill banning the sale of products containing bear bile or gallbladders. Associated Press.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Monday signed into law a measure to help Hawai‘i fight pests that have been impacting the state’s bee populations. Garden Island.

There are fewer than 55 days remaining until Hawai’i’s Primary Election Day showdown … in which all 76 state legislative seats are up for consideration by voters. Hawaii Public Radio.


U.S. House Subcommittee Slices Money for Rail. Civil Beat.

A federal judge sentenced a former Honolulu city driver's licensing clerk Monday to four months in jail for fraudulently producing a Hawaii license for an illegal immigrant. Star-Advertiser.

As the city of Honolulu plans to start building a $200 million, 3.2-mile wastewater tunnel between Kaneohe and Kailua this year, some residents living near the project are worried about the potential impact on their properties. Star-Advertiser.

Much controversy has surfaced over UH Manoa Chancellor-Designate, Tom Apple's large salary and the flagship campus' top executive, Virginia Hinshaw's sabbatical pay, and it all came to a head during our interview with the executives today. Hawaii News Now.

Doctor Tom Apple comes from the University of Delaware where he was provost. KHON2.

Can a White Federal Agent Who Killed a Hawaii Local Get a Fair Trial? Civil Beat.


Politicians and officials from around Hawaii, Western states and even some national-level representatives are coming to Hawaii at the end of this week for an annual state government conference. West Hawaii Today.

The FBI could soon have its own digs at the Hilo police station. Tribune-Herald.

Funding has been approved for permanent facilities to house the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES).KPUA.

A study of vog and wind patterns shows communities most impacted by the volcanic emissions can predict when the air is likely to be cleaner, a researcher told a County Council committee Monday. West Hawaii Today.


Maui's boating community has mixed reactions to a proposed state rule that would require recreational boaters operating motorized vessels to complete a one-time safety course, or face fines of up to $1,000. Maui News.

The bankrupt Days Inn Maui Oceanfront Inn in Kihei has been sold to a Chinese investor for $7.5 million, according to court documents. Maui News.


The Kaua‘i Fire Department held a brush fire mitigation meeting Friday morning, reminding large landowners, lessees and other stakeholders of their responsibility in maintaining firebreaks for open fields adjacent to structure. Garden Island.


“Solar is the strongest renewable energy resource for Molokai,” concludes the just-released Life of the Land report, “Wayfinding: Navigating Hawaii’s Energy Future,” by Henry Curtis. Molokai Dispatch.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Hawaii isn't all about sunshine

Hawaii isn’t the best or the worst, but is smack in the middle of a recent report rating states on the openness of government documents.

The Sunshine Week 2009 Survey of State Government Information ranked Hawaii 26th in the list of 50 states, based on online access to a range of government reports. Hawaii provided 11 of the 20 reports studied. Texas ranked first, providing all 20 of the reports. Mississippi ranked last, providing only four.

The state was ranked high for posting details such as statewide school test data, political campaign contributions and expenses, disciplinary actions against physicians, audit reports, teacher certifications, fictitious business name registrations, database of expenditures, consumer complaints, personal financial disclosure reports and school inspection and safety records.

But Hawaii lost points for not providing disciplinary actions against attorneys, environmental citations and violations, nursing home inspection reports, bridge inspection and safety reports, child care center inspection reports, hospital inspection reports, school bus inspections, gas pump overcharge records and death certificates.

Researchers noted that The state Ethics Commission Web site posts multiyear disclosure PDF files for state representatives, senators, the governor and lieutenant governor, members of the Board of Education, trustees and administrators of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, department heads and their deputies, and judiciary administrators, but the courts do not post disclosures for judges.

"Digital technologies can be a great catalyst for democracy, but the state of access today is quite uneven," Charles N. Davis, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition, said in a statement. "The future of Freedom of Information is online access, and states have a long way to go to fulfill the promise of electronic self-governance."

Among the major findings:
The information least likely to be found online were death certificates, found on the Web sites of only five states, and gas pump overcharge records, available online in eight. Also infrequently posted online were schools' building inspections and/or safety ratings, which are posted by only nine states, and school bus inspection reports, which only 13 states posted online.

Information most frequently found online were statewide school test scores and DOT projects/contracts, online in 50 and 48 states, respectively. Close behind was campaign data, reported in 47 of the 50 states; disciplinary actions against medical physicians, 47 states; and financial audits, 44 states.

Death certificates are apparently a revenue source for many states, as they charge relatives and "legitimately" interested parties for copies of the records, or farm out the work to a third-party service such as VitalChek. Some states provide historical access online to older death certificates, mostly prior to 1960, although there generally is a fee for hard copies.

The results were released Sunday at the start of Sunshine Week 2009, which runs March 15-21. The study was developed by Sunshine Week, the American Society of Newspaper Editors' Freedom of Information Committee, the National Freedom of Information Coalition, and the Society of Professional Journalists' FOI Committee.

"This study shows that, while a lot of government information is available online, many states lag in providing important information that people care about," David Cuillier, Freedom of Information Committee chairman for the Society of Professional Journalists, said in a statement. "People should be able to find inspection records for their schools online. And the government shouldn't be charging people for death certificates and other records."

The state government surveys were conducted by newspaper and broadcast journalists, journalism students, state press associations, and reporters and editors from The Associated Press. Several participants went the extra cyber-mile and helped complete surveys outside their own states.

"This is the first comprehensive survey of its kind," said ASNE FOI Committee Co-chair Andrew Alexander. "It tells us that many states understand that digitizing public records is key to open government in the 21st century. But it also tells us that, with a few exceptions, states have a long way to go before they become truly transparent.

"We know that providing public records in digital form is the right thing to do for citizens. But it's also the smart thing to do," added Alexander, who is ombudsman for The Washington Post. "With state budgets under considerable stress, providing public records in digitized form is less costly because it doesn't require a human to process each request for information."

Another crumbling infrastructure

By Edwin Bender

Our democracy's infrastructure is crumbling, just as our roads, water systems and sewers are deteriorating across the country — and we have a unique opportunity now to fix them all properly.

I'll leave the roads and such to the engineers. The infrastructure of our democracy, though, is something I know a thing or two about. You see, more than 16 years ago, I and a few other hearty souls across the country began compiling state-level campaign-finance data and making it available to the public.

We created databases by performing thousands of search-and-replace functions on 700-page Word documents that had been input at state agencies. And, even more time-consuming, we input donor information from innumerable paper reports that candidates had filed at their state disclosure agencies. And we made all this available to reporters via floppy disc and fax.

Then along came the Internet, and we happily upgraded our delivery system. But to this day, we still have to type in data by hand, because many candidates still file paper forms with state disclosure agencies. Can you believe it? In this day and age! What a waste of time.

The lack of uniform disclosure for the 50 states is a failure by design. Fragmented campaign-finance reporting means it's more difficult for people to follow the actions of their elected representatives — otherwise known as holding them accountable. Many candidates don't want you getting too familiar with their donor base. And lobbyists certainly don’t want you looking over their shoulders, especially when their actions might cost you money as a taxpayer.

We disagree with that. We think democracy works best when all aspects of campaigns are held up to the light of day. At the nonprofit, nonpartisan National Institute on Money in State Politics, we’ve compiled campaign-finance data from all 50 states dating back to the 2000 elections, as well as donor information for state party committees and ballot measures.

And we’ve compiled a list of lobbyists registered in the states for 2006 and 2007. We update all our data continuously. In fact, we’re on a first-name basis with staff in all 50 state disclosure offices, who for the most part are public servants eager to do good work. They love seeing their work contributed to the data tools and analyses we offer at To them, we tip our hats.

To the candidates who seem to think that funding public disclosure and ethics agencies is optional, we offer a Bronx salute. You don't have to look far to find examples of a disclosure agency fining a state political party or candidate for bundling or other breach of the public's trust, and you'll likely see the agency's budget on the cutting block next legislative session (Washington state and Alaska offer some sad examples.)

Since lawmakers themselves aren't eager to move disclosure into the 21st century, a host of nonprofit organizations are doing the work for citizens and displaying the results for free access. For our part, we built a tool called Lobbyist Link that lets you see which companies hired lobbyists and in which states, and where those companies also made political donations. (For instance, type "Merck" into our search window and you’ll see plenty of coordinated lobbying and donations in the states that considered the HPV vaccine for schools.)

Our L-CAT feature reveals who gave to specific state legislative committee members, and how much. For example, (big surprise) it turns out that insurance companies are major donors to members of the 2008 Illinois Senate Insurance Committee.

There is tremendous work being done by nonprofit organizations for Sunshine Week to create an index of all public information held by government agencies, at all levels. Project Vote Smart compiles biographical information about lawmakers, their speeches and voting records for the public, and makes it all available at their site, The Center for Responsive Politics tracks donations to presidential and congressional candidates as well as national party committees at Many others are looking at government subsidies and contracts, earmarks and corporate influence.

Unfortunately, we nonprofits are doing what we as taxpayers are already paying government agencies to do. (And we do realize those agencies often are between a rock and a hard place because of their budgets.)

So, now, when this country is set to invest billions of dollars on infrastructure projects meant to stimulate a horribly mismanaged economy, isn't it time we also invest in bringing the infrastructure of our democracy up to the 21st century? We aren’t talking rocket science. We’re talking standards that are common in the business world, where accurate, lightning-fast transactions are the norm.

President Obama has committed himself to transparency and accountability: He was co-sponsor of a 2006 federal law that created, which provides detailed federal spending lists, and the Strengthening Transparency and Accountability in Federal Spending Act of 2008 that addressed problems at

That's a start. And it only makes sense. If we’re going to promote democracy around the world, shouldn’t we also promote its health at home?

Bender is executive director of the National Institute on Money in State Politics, Helena, MT