Friday, March 5, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 4, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

State lawmakers tax marijuana, rescue schools with hurricane fund, move other bills at midway point of the legislative session, Honolulu mayor increases budget, Hawaii County mayor decreases budget, smoking ban flaunted, tsunami aftermath studied, more news

Furlough Fridays would be gone, marijuana for medical purposes would be taxed $30 an ounce and gas-powered leaf blowers would be outlawed in Hawaii as the Legislature moves to the halfway point.

Showing Gov. Linda Lingle and educators that options are available, state lawmakers yesterday moved bills that would dedicate money from the state's hurricane relief fund and rainy-day fund to reduce teacher furloughs.

Unsatisfied with the federal government’s penalties that have failed to deter the harassment and killing of Hawai‘i’s endangered species, state lawmakers are taking matters into their own hands.

Legislative Auditor Marion Higa could damage the state's good credit rating and cost taxpayers millions of dollars with a not-yet-published audit of the state Department of Budget and Finance, Gov. Linda Lingle said yesterday.

Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann on Tuesday laid out his $1.827 billion budget plan that includes cuts and furloughs.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann presented an operating budget yesterday that increases spending by 1.2 percent to $1.83 billion without major tax increases.

Mayor Billy Kenoi's preliminary budget abolishes or unfunds 111 positions, furloughs most county employees two days a month except those in public safety and silences the county bands.

Hawaii County must raise property tax rates, cut positions and furlough workers to make ends meet, Mayor Billy Kenoi told lawmakers Monday in presenting his annual budget proposal.

With a cigar smoldering and the smoke wafting throughout, O'Toole's Irish Pub doesn't hide the fact it serves smokers.

Stand-up paddle boarding's rapid rise in popularity has left state boating officials unsure how to regulate the activity at Hilo's Wailoa Small Boat Harbor.

The city's emergency response to Saturday's tsunami warning cost $330,000, but Mayor Mufi Hannemann said the expense was "fully justified."

Although Maui's Department of Wastewater Reclamation shut down several pump stations to prevent saltwater damage Saturday, the City and County of Honolulu's Department of Environmental Services did not.

In light of the recent tsunami warning, county officials are urging residents and businesses who have not yet signed up for Connect CTY, Kauai County’s free mass notification service, to do so.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Feds give Hawaii $125.7M for roads, health insurers ailing, Maui sewage spill from tsunami still lingers, bank robbers active on Oahu, businesses to get tax relief, other top news from Hawaii

Hawaii received $125.7 million of the $26.6 billion allotted nationwide for highways under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the White House announced yesterday.

Hawaii Medical Service Association, reeling from a $64.4 million loss in 2009—its worst annual loss ever—is requesting an average 7.8 percent small-business rate increase for its most popular health plan and said it is making a fundamental change in the way it reimburses its medical providers.

The Hawaii Medical Service Association plans to raise premiums by an average of 7.8 percent for roughly 11,000 small businesses that buy health insurance for their employees.

Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Hawaii sustained a $7 million loss in the fourth quarter amid declining revenue as more members lost their jobs and enrolled in the state's Quest program for low-income individuals.

The robbery of a Central Pacific Bank branch in Makiki yesterday makes the seventh bank heist of the year, nearly double the number reported at the same time last year.
It was another cool, but noisy night of high winds.

Monday's monthly siren test also tested emergency sirens that reportedly didn't fire on Saturday.

Relief is on its way for thousands of Hawaii employers now facing close to a 1000 percent increase in their unemployment insurance taxes.

Developer DW Aina Lea has about a month left to complete 16 affordable housing units at the Aina Lea project in South Kohala.

A day after a small tsunami generated by a giant earthquake in Chile just kissed Hawaii's shores, Maui county officials were still advising the public to stay out of some ocean areas because of sewage spills.

The Point at Po‘ipu’s timeshare management company said Monday that complaints about rising maintenance fees are based on a “fundamental misunderstanding” of the business, promising a lawsuit against the most vociferous owners within a week.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Officials defend tsunami evacuation, lawmakers still looking for money, more top Hawaii news

Scientists acknowledged they overstated the threat but defended their actions, saying they took the proper steps and learned the lessons of the 2004 Indonesian tsunami that killed thousands of people who didn’t get enough warning.

Businesses lost thousands of dollars when the tsunami warning forced them to shut down Saturday.

This was not a drill. As a very real tsunami threat loomed off the coast, Hawaii County Civil Defense proved its ability to smoothly evacuate sleepy residents early Saturday morning.

The county's Emergency Operations Center resembled a well-oiled war room Saturday.

County officials responded to some reports of overflowing sewers, but no other damage was reported following the small tsunami that struck Maui and the rest of the state Saturday.

No money would be allocated for smoking prevention activities from the Hawaii tobacco settlement special fund under a bill moving in the state House to deal with the state budget crisis.

Kauai County officials announced that the Anti-Drug Office was awarded a $1.2 million grant for underage drinking prevention programs.

Most of Hawai'i's more than $1 billion in federal stimulus money is going toward projects that many would agree help the economy, or to people who have recently lost their jobs.

Lawmakers are considering a measure that would eliminate junior kindergarten in Hawai'i public schools and move up the date children are eligible to enter kindergarten, changes that would require thousands of late-born 5-year-olds to wait an additional year before they can start school.

The first public school built like a shopping mall is taking shape on the Leeward Coast and is slated for a grand opening in January.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Sale of state's largest newspaper dominates headlines, Abercrombie bids aloha to Congress, minor fire at Honolulu airport delays flights, more top news

Oahu Publications Inc. has agreed to purchase The Honolulu Advertiser, the state's dominant newspaper, and sell or merge the rival Honolulu Star-Bulletin in a deal that will likely consolidate media voices in Hawai'i.

Honolulu will likely join most other U.S. cities with only one daily newspaper after the owners of the smaller Honolulu Star-Bulletin agreed to buy its longtime rival The Honolulu Advertiser.

Friday morning Honolulu's two daily newspapers will share the same headline. The owner of the Star-Bulletin is buying the Honolulu Advertiser. The Bulletin will either be sold off or shut down.

A word from David Black

A fire in the ventilation system at a Burger King restaurant resulted in the closure and evacuation of the interisland terminal at Honolulu International Airport for about an hour yesterday afternoon.

The Hawaii state flag will fly at half-staff at state and county buildings from sunrise to sunset Wednesday in honor of former Mayor Frank Fasi, who died Feb. 3 at age 89.

Congressman Neil Abercrombie said farewell to Congress today. Well wishers and colleagues praised him as he spent his final day in office before moving back to Hawaii to run for governor.

Already reeling from a lousy economy, merchants here say they might not outlast a sewer line project that will leave main street ripped up for another 15 months.

Many Kona commuters see Kaiminani Drive as one of the area's few mauka-makai thoroughfares or often as a shortcut to the airport.

Imagine the size of the parking meter.

Around 400 shoppers waited in line and crammed their way into the new Whole Foods Market, which opened its doors to the public Wednesday morning at the Maui Mall.

Roger I. Knox, a longtime Maui business and civic leader, died at his residence on Oahu on Monday. He was 93.

Na Pali Explorer is launching a new program with limited trips to the Westside so passengers can participate in understanding and documenting humpback whale behavior.

Electricity rates near the highest in the United States and dependence on oil for some 90 percent of the island’s energy needs is no longer feasible, each of the five candidates running for three positions on Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative’s Board of Directors said Wednesday evening.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Legislature won't gamble on casinos, congressional election set, flag flap continues, most TAT to counties restored, Kauai mayor satisfied, more Hawaii news

The state House Finance Committee agreed last night to defer a bill that would have allowed a casino on O'ahu, as lawmakers discarded gambling as an option to help with the state's budget deficit.

State House Finance Chairman Marcus Oshiro said a move to legalize casino gambling is dead at the Hawaii Legislature this session.

The state's four county mayors applauded the move by House lawmakers to leave in place most of the money they receive from the hotel room tax.

Each year the state forgoes about $835 million in revenue by giving companies and individuals a break on the general excise tax, exempting everything from aircraft engines to shipbuilding.

The State House Housing Committee Wednesday unanimously approved a bill to force planned communities to allow residents to fly Hawaiian and American flags without restrictions.

Room 325 at the State Capitol was full of military veterans. One held an American flag. Others wore red, white and blue. All of them had the same mission.

Responding to a request from lawmakers to cut another 5 percent from its budget, the state Board of Education worked into the night identifying programs that could be trimmed.

The election to fill U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie's 1st Congressional District seat will be held May 22, according to state elections officials.

Hawaii County has launched its first high-tech effort to sell real estate, with a Web site that went live late last week advertising 738 acres in Hamakua.

A Hilo pharmacist foiled an armed robbery Tuesday morning, with a little help from his friends.

Hawaii Island residents and doctors keep coming back to the issue of access to care -- or lack thereof.

He didn’t give himself a specific letter grade for his first full year as Kaua‘i’s mayor, but Bernard Carvalho Jr. made it clear that he is happy with the results thus far.

When Towne Development of Hawaii started selling affordably priced homes in its 2,000-home Kehalani subdivision in Central Maui in the 1990s, customers would wait in line for hours to get on the buyers' list.

Crew members of SubAviator were packing up to leave Mala Ramp on Tuesday, but they may well come back.

A proposed reduction in force affecting state Department of Human Services workers on Kaua‘i will be discussed Thursday at 5 p.m. at the Kaua‘i War Memorial Convention Hall in Lihu‘e.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Akaka Bill passes House, economy improving, few speak Hawaiian, traffic better but still bad, more news

Hawai'i's economic difficulties may be abating, with the state saying there are signs that certain sectors may hit bottom this year and start a slow recovery from the downturn.

More signs of stability in Hawaii's economy and improved outlooks for the U.S. and Japan have prompted the state to slightly revise upward its recovery projections for this year.

Following passage in the House yesterday, the fate of the Akaka bill now rests with the Senate, where the outcome is much less certain.

Over the objections of Republican Gov. Linda Lingle, the U.S. House passed a bill empowering native Hawaiians to create their own government that eventually would negotiate for control of hundreds of thousands of acres of Hawaii.

Proponents argue additions to the body of the Akaka Bill make it stronger even though Gov. Linda Lingle disagrees.

One of the things we’ll be watching closely when the numbers from the 2010 U.S. Census begin to trickle in: the percentage of Hawaii residents who speak the Hawaiian language.

A traffic report released on Tuesday puts Honolulu near the top of a list no one wants to be on. The report lists the top 100 U.S. cities with the worst traffic congestion. Honolulu ranks second behind Los Angeles.

A dip in tourism and a spike in unemployment translate to less traffic congestion on Honolulu's roadways, according to a recent study.

Hawaii Island agencies that respond to domestic violence are working to update a system hamstrung by a lack of consistency, communication and resources.

Hawaiian Telcom on Monday released a Palani Road closure schedule for work to transfer cables to new utility poles.

The congestion in the parking lot at Mala Wharf over the weekend was so bad that some fishers said they had to park half a mile away. Others just went home.

County officials announced that the Energy Conservation Code governing all new construction on Kaua‘i will be effective May 26.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Akaka Bill faces crucial hearing today, HECO raising rates, UPW deal in the works, Hannemann delivers State of the City, Hilo crime wave and other top news

A new version of the native Hawaiian government reorganization bill is moving in the U.S. House, but Gov. Linda Lingle remains opposed to it—and that could doom it in the Senate.

The U.S. House could vote today on a new version of the Akaka bill, after Hawai'i's congressional delegation opted to move forward without the support of Gov. Linda Lingle.

United Public Workers Unit 1 has reached agreement with the four county governments on a new collective-bargaining contract that would run through June 30, 2011.

Gov. Linda Lingle will return to Hawaii today to find that the heat has been turned up on the state's simmering labor problems.

The Hawai‘i Council of Mayors on Monday announced that the four county governments have reached an agreement in principle with the United Public Workers for a new collective bargaining pact for this fiscal year and the next.

A voting controversy has prompted lawmakers to re-start a discussion over the American flag.

In delivering his sixth State of the City address, Mayor Mufi Hannemann outlined a vision for Honolulu that included his $5.5 billion rail transit project, transit-oriented development, thousands of new jobs, new construction and other initiatives to stimulate the economy.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann last night promised to deliver to the City Council a balanced operating budget, but offered few details about how he intends to address an estimated $140 million shortfall.

In a first for Mayor Mufi Hannemann he held his state of the city address outside and at night. It's just one sign of change to come.

Text: State Of The City Address 2010

The Hawaiian Electric Co. announced Monday it is increasing rates for all customers.

Business owners say the streets of downtown Hilo have taken a turn for the worse.

A new surgery center has nearly doubled the number of operating rooms in West Hawaii, but it isn't in competition with Kona Community Hospital, officials say.

A sighting of an approximately 12-foot-long tiger shark led Maui County officials to close waters off Hookipa Beach Park for about two hours on Monday.

The Kapaia swinging bridge over Hanama‘ulu Stream, one of four such pedestrian suspension bridges on the island, likely outlived its practical usefulness many years ago.

A bill that would keep state park revenues on the island where they are generated instead of spreading them across Hawai‘i is being touted by Kaua‘i legislators and the advisory group tasked with preserving and protecting Koke‘e State Park.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Lingle talks transit in Washington, Hannemann preps for state of the city, lawmakers looking for money, cetacean rehab facility opening in Hilo, domestic violence rising, more Hawaii news

Sunday Governor Linda Lingle met with the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to talk about Honolulu's rail project.

President Barack Obama prodded states today to raise their school standards by using his best leverage: money.

Sick and injured whales and dolphins will have a place to go after the Feb. 26 opening of the Hawai'i Cetacean Rehabilitation Facility in Hilo.

Expect Mayor Mufi Hannemann to offer a "five-year report card" of his administration when he gives his sixth, and possibly last, state of the city address tonight on the grounds of the Frank F. Fasi Civic Center.

Gambling, civil unions, banning fireworks and raiding the city's transit fund to balance the state budget all appear to be losing support at the Legislature.

Perhaps it is the fiscal crisis facing the state, but it is more apparent this year that there is a lot of ignorance about just what makes the economy run.

As the state's agriculture industry goes through some sour times, a relatively new crop is hoping to sweeten things up. Sugar and pineapple were once the staple crops of Hawaii's plantation era, but with these industries practically extinct, Hawaii's ag lands are now returning to a new era of small farms.

As incidents of domestic violence rise statewide, East Hawaii has seen an increasing number of temporary restraining orders filed against individuals.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is scheduled to begin a week-long monitoring project at the old Kailua-Kona landfill March 8, sampling the air for toxic gases.

Mayor Charmaine Tavares said she made an effort to cut back on out-of-state travel in 2009 because of the county's tight budget.

Maui County Council members spent a total of $116,090 on travel last year, including trips to lobby the Legislature in Honolulu, meetings with council members from other counties and conferences on the Mainland.

Congresswoman Mazie Hirono got a first-hand look at one of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act programs in action Saturday

Friday, February 19, 2010

Native Hawaiian sovereignty bill to be considered Monday, state dumps 4k mentally ill, leaf blower ban considered, flag flap intensifies, more Hawaii news

A version of the Akaka bill could be up for a vote on the floor of the U.S. House next week.

Legislation aimed at lessening the increase employers are expected to pay in unemployment insurance taxes cleared the state House yesterday.

About 4,000 Medicaid clients with severe mental illnesses will no longer get mental health services through the state under changes set to start taking effect this summer, but instead will get treatment from their health insurers — a switch that some worry will leave clients with reduced or no mental health care.

Some state politicians are fighting to keep local jobs for local workers. House Speaker Calvin Say has introduced a bill that would require 80% of workers hired for public works or construction contracts be Hawaii residents.

An attempt by House Republicans to force a vote on a bill to allow flagpoles in planned communities turned into a fight over procedure on the chamber floor.

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday will deliberate a bill to prohibit the use of gas leaf blowers.

Hawaii County Council members fortunate enough to win re-election this year won't be rewarded with an automatic 2 percent pay raise.

Parts of three county agencies would be combined into a new transportation department in a restructuring plan Mayor Billy Kenoi plans to submit March 1 with his annual budget.

Mayor Billy Kenoi will get a little help on his frequent lobbying trips to the state Capitol, thanks to a $50,000, five-month contract awarded Tuesday to Honolulu consultant Okudara & Associates Inc.

Acquiring land has largely been the hitch in attempts to start up renewable energy facilities in Hawai‘i, and the difficulties are only exacerbated by current subdivision requirements, Rep. Mina Morita says.

Maui County sued the Merrill Lynch brokerage Wednesday to "gain access" to $32 million it had invested in a kind of pooled security - akin to a mortgage-backed security - called a Student Loan Auction Rate Security.

When it comes to the fight over the water in East Maui's streams, the public debate over recent years has almost always involved plenty of flowing tears.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lawmakers look at raising taxes, Kona coffee shortchanged, thunderstorms nearing islands, Kauai to get a helicopter, more top Hawaii news

The state House is considering a measure that would temporarily increase general excise and use taxes by a percentage point, to 5 percent, in an effort to narrow the state's $1.2 billion budget deficit.

Hawaii state lawmakers are advancing a bill to hike the taxes for the next five years on hard liquor, wine, beer and all other spirits.

Hesitant about the political and economic consequences of raising the state's general excise tax, state House lawmakers are walking through several potential alternatives, including another increase in income taxes and eliminating tax breaks for investors and nonprofits.

Neighbor Island mayors and other county executives went before state lawmakers yesterday to again fight to keep their shares of the hotel room tax revenues.

The state and the four counties are squabbling over nearly $100 million collected from the transient accommodations tax. Every hotel room is taxed by the state which then splits it amongst each county. But the state wants to keep that money for the next three years to help balance the budget.

The state Office of Elections has a new permanent chief election officer, but that was the only question resolved about the upcoming 2010 election season.

A large area of thunderstorms south of Hawaii has been showing signs of intensification and organization this morning, but the Central Pacific Hurricane Center says chances of development into a tropical cyclone remain low.

An unusual situation has popped up in the central Pacific Ocean about 1300 miles south of the Hawaiian islands. Even though Hawaii is well outside of hurricane season, forecasters are watching for possible strengthening and organization of a group of thunderstorms brewing near the Line Islands.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority is awarding more than $180,000 to Big Island-based programs aimed at perpetuating the Hawaiian culture.

Kona coffee farmers are losing out on up to $14.4 million in revenue annually to corporate marketers of 10 percent Kona coffee blends, according to a study released last Wednesday.

A one-of-a-kind miniature submarine that flies underwater is visiting Maui this month. It doesn't "fly" very fast - only 6 knots maximum or around 7 mph - but it works just like an airplane, said its crew chief, Dave Harper.

Crossing the “T”s and dotting the “I”s on a commitment it made last week, the Kaua‘i County Council on Wednesday unanimously approved two measures enabling Kaua‘i to become the last Hawai‘i county to have its own dedicated public-use helicopter.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Renovated USS Arizona opening today, Lost producers coy about details, homeless worry tourism officials, Hannemann's uncampaign, more

Thousands of visitors today are expected to pour into the first phase of a new USS Arizona Memorial Visitor Center, designed to replace the old buildings that have sunk nearly three feet into the unsteady ground around Pearl Harbor.

The state is providing more than $8 million in federal money to the four counties to reduce and prevent underage drinking in Hawaii.

Some parents are worried it may be too late to end teacher furloughs this school year. However, a key state Senate committee said maybe not.

The homeless situation can seem overwhelming to the point where some observers just throw up their hands.

Some tourism officials have voiced concern that the growing number of homeless camped at parks could give visitors second thoughts about returning or recommending a trip to friends and family.

Maui finished a "turbulent year" with an occupancy rate of 62.1 percent for 2009. That was down from an already low 67.9 percent in 2008.

State payments totaling about $90 million a month to five insurance plans providing health coverage for low-income residents will be delayed in May and June, and possibly April, says state Human Services Director Lillian Koller.

While Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann says he is not yet an official candidate for governor, he is in the middle of a campaign swing through the state.

Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann played up his Big Island ties during a benefit in Hilo for the Hawaii Island Food Bank, but he is in no rush to decide whether he'll run for governor.

Australia, Philippines, and now possibly Japan - Hawaiian Airlines is aiming for Tokyo.

More than 150 soldiers will spend one last night in Hawaii before leaving for Afghanistan Wednesday. They'll be gone 10 months and for many it's the second time overseas.

State officials say Kona Blue Water Farms remains in compliance with environmental monitoring and reporting requirements and is current on its lease payments.

The executive producers of Lost have kept viewers on the toes by being careful to reveal little clues, but not much.

Mayor Billy Kenoi has been off-island more than a quarter of his first year in office, according to a summary provided by his administration.

Police on Tuesday continued to investigate the death of a man whose decomposing body was discovered Sunday in his sleeping bag in Kalalau Valley.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pirates of the Caribbean brings Hollywood to Hawaii, well-being tops in the nation, Oahu hotels expect improvement, survey anti-smoking, more top news

It's Hollywood in Hawaii, as the Black Pearl arrives.  That's the ship featured in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" films.

One of the stars of "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" isn't waiting around for Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz to hit wardrobe and makeup.

A national survey reports Hawaii finally leads America in something good: our sense of well-being.

There was a stunt scare at Kualoa. Firefighters thought they needed to save a life.It turns out the "emergency" was an action scene being filmed near Chinaman's Hat.

Hawai'i's hotel executives expect to see some improvement in Waikīkī bookings this year but caution that the recovery may take longer on the Neighbor Islands.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann's personal attacks on Gov. Linda Lingle are hurting the city's plans for rail transit, according to rail supporter and candidate for governor U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie.

Ninety-two percent of respondents in a recent survey agreed that a portion of Hawai'i's tobacco settlement monies should be dedicated for programs to reduce smoking among minors and to other quit-smoking programs, the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii said Monday.

Living legend Dorothy "Auntie Dottie" Thompson, 89, waves to the crowd of friends and family members who press in to congratulate her Saturday after her award as the YWCA Hawaii Island Remarkable Person for 2010 in a ceremony at the YWCA community hall on Ululani Street.

Last December, 16-year-old June Mohr, of Kailua-Kona, rang bells for The Salvation Army during its holiday collection drive and sent 50 care packages to soldiers overseas.

Nobody saw it or heard anything, but the evidence was gruesomely evident the next morning: 17 sheep and goats in three paddocks on an Olinda property, dead.

While New Orleans and the nation celebrates Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, here in Hawai‘i, the population celebrates the day before Lent as Malasada Tuesday, or Malasada Day

Monday, February 15, 2010

Native Hawaiian claims county land, Aloha Run today, Honolulu bus ridership down, homeless up, state hospital troubled, more top Hawaii news

After months negotiating with a landowner, Hawaii County has almost finalized the paperwork to buy a property labeled the top priority for preservation by the county's Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Commission. The problem is, the man who lives there says it's not for sale.

Despite stepped-up efforts, the state cannot keep pace with swelling numbers of homeless

Rising unemployment and gasoline prices below $4 a gallon are taking a toll on public transit ridership in Honolulu and nationally.

Legislators, Kane'ohe residents and the union for Hawai'i State Hospital employees are raising concerns about a cost-cutting decision in December to lay off state security guards at the psychiatric facility, dramatically decreasing the hospital's security force.

It's Hollywood in Hawaii, as the Black Pearl arrives.  That's the ship featured in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" films.

More than 20,000 people are scheduled to hit the streets Monday morning as part of the 26th annual Great Aloha Run.

A helicopter tour company reported seeing an "SOS" written on Kalalau Beach at about 2:30 p.m. while flying over the area.

The streets were filled with the din of firecrackers, gongs and cymbals as Ed Yap's Big Island Shaolin Arts troupe helped Hiloans celebrate the advent of Chinese New Year.

One of the state's biggest defense contractors has won the bid for the first phase of Ane Keohokalole Highway, also known as the midlevel road.

Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge Manager Glynnis Nakai said, yes, she knows what people will say.

A nearly $90,000 grant from the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs will support efforts by a group working to protect a Lanai forest and watershed and its native plants and animals - including a colony of endangered uau, or petrel seabirds, discovered in 2006.

It was Kaua‘i Police Assistant Chief Roy Asher’s idea to mark the beginning of Chief Darryl Perry’s tenure with new badges for all officers.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife announces an opportunity for interested individuals to participate in the control of feral goats on Kaua‘i in an area known as Hunting Unit F in Waimea Canyon.

Friday, February 12, 2010

ACLU: State discriminates against unmarried couples, more than 5k medical marijuana users, tourism is king, green building code costing, meth addict guilty of throwing baby off overpass, more

Hawaii’s sandalwood industry is long gone. Even sugar operations are a distant memory. For now, tourism is the industry in Hawaii.

Ten years after Hawaii became one of the first medical marijuana states, lawmakers are planning to make more marijuana available to patients. However, law enforcement agencies are objecting, saying the current law is not working the way it was intended.

So far the state has granted more than five-thousand medical marijuana permits, majority of those on the Big Island.

State general fund tax collections for the first seven months of the fiscal year decreased by 5.4 percent compared with the same period last year, but the decline wasn't as severe as the drop in revenues reported in the first half of the year.

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a complaint alleging that the Department of Land and Natural Resources is discriminating against unmarried couples who want to live together on boats in state-run harbors.

A state judge found an admitted methamphetamine addict guilty yesterday in the death of a toddler thrown from an H-1 pedestrian overpass.

Former Mayor Frank Fasi's body will lie in state at Honolulu Hale all day on March 3 to give the public an opportunity to pay its respects.

Surfers need to say thank you to El Nino. The weather phenomenon is bringing in great surf conditions today and all winter long.

Big Island business leaders argue that a state House of Representatives bill to lower unemployment insurance tax rates doesn't provide enough relief for overburdened entrepreneurs.

Laupahoehoe High and Elementary School may now apply to the state for public charter school status following Wednesday's supportive 145-35 vote by parents and teachers.

A new "green" building code that goes into effect this spring could cost a bit more green as well.

Maui County Council members who appoint another person to represent them on the board of a nonprofit could still face a conflict of interest in voting on matters that affect the organization, the Board of Ethics stated.

After hearing nearly four hours of emotional testimony, the Kaua‘i/Ni‘ihau Island Burial Council on Thursday unanimously rejected the 16th draft of the burial treatment for Naue landowner Joseph Brescia’s controversial single-family home.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

State e-waste plan not working, tent, shopping cart park ban moving forward, lawmakers debate Furlough Friday, Hamakua land to go on block, Lanai councilman could be forced out, other state news

The Big Island's e-waste recycling centers are becoming graveyards for illegally dumped computers, televisions, microwaves and printers.

Bills restricting tents and banning shopping carts at city parks moved out of a key Honolulu City Council committee yesterday.

Incoming public housing tenants could be subject to credit checks and visits to their current home under proposals meant to better screen applicants and cut down on delinquent renters.

The Hawaii Supreme Court has ordered a circuit judge to decide whether Lanai Councilman Sol Kahoohalahala should keep his job depending on where he lives

Maui County Council Member Sol Kaho'ohalahala could be forced to vacate his office by a judge, under a ruling of the Hawaii Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann took his message across the street yesterday, staging a forum at the state Capitol to update the public on the status of the city's rail transit project and again urge Gov. Linda Lingle to expeditiously sign off on the project.

Attorneys for seven autistic students asked a federal appeals court yesterday to let them go back to school on Furlough Fridays, arguing that Hawaii's decision to shut down campuses has illegally disrupted their education.

Public school students could spend a minimum of 190 days and 36 hours a week in class, based on a bill passed out of the Senate's Committee on Education and Housing yesterday.

As students face another furlough Friday in two days parents are more and more frustrated and so are their elected representatives.

The Kaua‘i County Council will lend its voice to the chorus of Hawai‘i counties pleading to Gov. Linda Lingle and state lawmakers to keep their hands off the counties’ portion of the hotel tax.

There are flight frustrations with the bone chilling blizzard blanketing the East Coast. It's causing travel delays, which is having a domino effect in Hawaii.

Hawaii County will attempt to sell the first of its Paauilo mauka parcels March 31, finance administrators said Tuesday in outlining the liquidation plan expected to raise millions

A group of Maui residents calling themselves the DIRE Coalition said this week that while they support Mayor Charmaine Tavares' goal of eliminating the county's injection wells, she is just not doing enough to achieve results - or as soon as is possible.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Kilauea sends lava through subdivision, surf's up, lawmakers advance casinos, fireworks and legal marijuana, but snuff out cigarettes, more state news

Fires are burning on the Big Island of Hawaii as a surge of lava pulses down slope through as many as six tubes, threatening the last remaining home in a neighborhood scorched by lava flows.

Lava from Kílauea volcano once again has oozed through the mostly abandoned Royal Gardens subdivision, covering portions of the small open areas untouched by previous flows.

A high surf warning is in effect for north and west facing shores of Niihau, Kauai, Oahu and Molokai as well as north facing shores of Maui and west facing shores of the island of Hawaii. The warning is posted through 6:00 PM Thursday.

Marijuana could be sold legally and have its own tax under a proposal approved Tuesday by a state Senate committee.

Two state House committees on Tuesday killed a bill to allow customers to smoke in certain bars.

A bill that could lead to casinos on Hawaiian Home Lands passed out of the state House Judiciary Committee, while a separate measure that would allow a single casino on O'ahu also advanced yesterday.

Prospects for a statewide ban on fireworks dimmed yesterday after a state Senate committee chose to give counties the ability to opt out.

Natural disasters were considered "low-probability events" four years ago when planning began here on a hazard preparedness training program, observed University of Hawaii professor Karl Kim.

Spending and visitor arrivals for the Honolulu Marathon have remained at a good pace, with participants spending more than $100 million for the fifth year in a row, despite the tourism industry languishing in a cool-down period.

Residents hoping to visit the incredible natural wonders around the Captain Cook Monument in Kealakekua Bay will soon need to apply for a free permit from the state to land their kayaks.

Statistics about infant health and mortality can be a weathervane when it comes to predicting future trends in the health of the general population, a state health official says.

Honolulu real estate developer and broker Chris Lau has been appointed commissioner to sell the Makena Beach and Golf Resort, which was foreclosed last year. The auction probably will be scheduled for April.

A trio of bills that could go a long way toward curtailing unintended land uses and promoting agriculture on the Garden Isle have piled up on the Kaua‘i County Council’s to-do list.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Superferry may return, more government jobs may be lost, bar owners want smoking back, more news

If you thought the Hawaii Superferry issue was gone, you may be wrong.

The House Transportation Committee approved a bill yesterday to study a state-sponsored ferry system that would be able to buy at least one high-speed vessel to carry passengers and vehicles between the islands

The Army said it plans to look at the environmental impact of basing up to three "joint high-speed vessels" in Pearl Harbor — speedy craft capable of carrying large loads, similar to the defunct Hawaii Superferry's ships.

More than 200 state workers who process applications for government assistance programs could lose their jobs, their union said, and at least 50 eligibility offices statewide could close under a cost-cutting proposal that advocates are worried will make it harder for the poor to access key social services.

Hawaii's largest government worker union says up to 400 people could be on the chopping block and 60 offices may shut down.

State legislators are reviewing bills that would require a minimum of instructional hours or days in Hawaii public schools as they look to restore school days lost because of budget cuts.

A group of bar owners is asking for an exemption from the state's three-year-old workplace smoking ban.

In another sign of hard times, residents have been without a place to swim in Lanai City since landowner Castle and Cooke Resorts closed the island's only public pool nine months ago.

Construction has begun at the U.S. Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands near Kekaha on an Advanced Radar Detection Laboratory facility

Monday, February 8, 2010

Lawmakers target taxes, hospitals, restaurants and drunk drivers, Census seeks better representation, Chinatown and cherry blossoms celebrated, more

The state Senate is set to discuss a bill Monday to privatize Hawaii Health Systems Corp. as a nonprofit organization.

For some legislative observers, the very idea that lawmakers will raise your taxes had become more of a "fait accompli" even before the starting gun had been shot.

Impounding a drunk driver's car for a year and furthering the education of bartenders and servers at the core of two new bills being introduced to the state Legislature this year.

The ingredients in entrees served at restaurants across the state are the target of new legislation at Hawaii's Capitol.

Local census officials estimate Hawai'i lost out on $310 million in federal funding over the past 10 years because of "undercounting" in the 2000 census.

Maui's commercial real estate industry sure isn't as bad as on the Mainland, said veteran local leasing broker Ed Bello of Bello Realty Inc., who on a recent business trip to Colorado saw a bankrupt big-box store converted into a charter school and a former Blockbuster Video into a veterinary clinic.

The state is driving the adoption of electric and alternate vehicles through a variety of mandates and grants, but the push could add to costs at government agencies and businesses already grappling with the worst economy in decades.

The Year of the Golden Tiger will be celebrated this year in conjunction with Valentine's Day, an occurrence that happened only a few times during the past century. But don't let the added romanticism fool you.

Hawaiian Holdings Inc., the parent company of Hawaiian Airlines, has posted a profit for the fourth quarter and for full year 2009.

An idea to keep Waimea from falling off the map as the Big Island grew has become a full-fledged explosion of color and fun for Big Island residents.

Parents and school officials have long questioned whether Hawaii students are prepared for life beyond high school.

Consumers are changing the way they use energy, said Brad Parsons of Kauaians for a Bright Future.

The Chinatown art renaissance continues.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Drought extreme, Kauai bulldozes Native Hawaiian homes, state credit rating down, Fasi remembered, command center a white elephant, Big Island stores on Target, roll call on civil unions, more state news

The rainy season here is falling so far short of normal this year that Hawaii is the only state with a National Weather Service assessment of "extreme drought" status.

Several Native Hawaiian families had their dwellings bulldozed Thursday after county officials determined they were illegally erected on county park land along Wainiha Bay and Wainiha River.

Tapping into reserves and special funds such as the state's hurricane relief or rainy-day funds to help balance the state budget could contribute to a lowering of Hawai'i's bond rating, Moody's Investors Services said.

Moody's Investors Service lowered its outlook for $4.7 billion in Hawaii general-obligation bonds, saying the state is depleting budget reserves as a tourism slump reduces tax revenue.

Friends and foes of Frank F. Fasi yesterday remembered Honolulu's longest-serving mayor as a savvy politician who fought for the little guy and got things done, often with little regard for conventional practices.

Even as Mayor Hannemann pushes forward with rail transit today he's following in Frank Fasi's steps. Fasi was one of the first supporters of rail more than 40 years ago.

A high-tech, state-of-the-art emergency mobile command unit that cost $700,000 has sat idle for 2 1/2 years after it arrived in Hawaii.

State Rep. Joe Bertram III has declared bankruptcy for a second time, saying he is unable to cover medical expenses from an illness that hospitalized him last year.

The Kenoi Administration wants to sell another Hamakua parcel of land.

Target and Safeway were welcomed with a mixture of gratitude and relief Wednesday as representatives broke ground on the $60 million Makaala Center in Hilo.

The Kaloko Housing Program took incremental steps forward Wednesday, but county officials seem confident the affordable housing project will be serving residents by early 2011.

The Weekly asked each representative: How did you vote in the voice vote on Speaker Say’s motion to postpone House Bill 444? Here’s what they told us.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Casinos coming to Hawaii? Frank Fasi dies, education in a muddle, plastic bag ban bagged, biodiesel for the Big island, more news

Casino operations could take place on Hawaiian Home Lands under a bill that advanced out of the House Hawaiian Affairs Committee yesterday.

Former Honolulu Mayor Frank F. Fasi died last night in his Makiki home at the age of 90.

Two bills that advanced in the state House yesterday would let voters decide if the state Board of Education should be appointed by the governor.

U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie appears to be the favored son of attorneys, while Mayor Mufi Hannemann is the big winner among engineers and heads of companies.

How the University of Hawaii budget fares at the state Capitol is one of several factors that will determine how much tuition could go up at the 10 UH campuses, UH President M.R.C. Greenwood said yesterday after giving a first-ever State of the University speech before a joint session of the Legislature.

Grab those extra blankets - it's cold thanks to those north winds blowing in a big dry air mass after Tuesday's rain.

Too often in Hawaii's history, and today, people building on previously undeveloped land have damaged or destroyed archaeological sites, artifacts and iwi, or bones, said state Rep. Mele Carroll.

By a vote of 24 to 1, the state Senate confirmed former US Attorney Ed Kubo's appointment to be a Circuit Court judge.

Plastic bags don't litter the landscape; people do.

A new biodiesel plant that will produce 2.6 million gallons a year is planned for Keaau.

With one eye firmly trained on public safety, another on protecting local businesses and both hands firmly grasping the steering wheel, the Kaua‘i County Council on Wednesday passed an ordinance that will bar drivers from using handheld electronic devices.

The Hawaii County Council is considering impact fees on building permits as an alternative to the county's current reliance on "Fair Share" contributions from developers.

A Hawaii County Council committee heard from about two dozen people Tuesday night who testified that police are ignoring the voter-passed initiative making adult personal use of marijuana the lowest law-enforcement priority.

A Wailuku Elementary School teacher was arrested Tuesday morning after police reported finding crystal methamphetamine in a search of her Kahului residence.

A first grade teacher at Wailuku Elementary School teacher is facing serious drug charges.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

State seeks to tax cash sales and the bag you take it home in, home sales up a bit, cell phone driving bans ineffective, federal money coming for rail, more news

Special state agents are scrutinizing businesses' cash sales in hopes of taxing some of the $2 billion in unreported transactions estimated to occur in Hawaii every year.

Hawaii state lawmakers are considering a proposal that would force customers to pay more at the grocery store.

Hawaii parents want school furloughs to end right now, but two state Senate committees are looking to the future to make sure Hawaii's public school children are never again robbed of any classroom time.

O'ahu's housing market started the year on a positive note, as the median price of previously owned single-family homes sold in January jumped 10.8 percent to $597,500 from $539,500 a year earlier.

Former U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo's chances of being confirmed by the state Senate as a Circuit Court judge improved yesterday when an influential senator who had opposed Kubo said he would likely vote for his confirmation.

The Federal Transit Administration has included funding for the Honolulu rail system in President Barack Obama's fiscal 2011 budget, in anticipation of the rail plan's clearing environmental review

A high surf advisory is in effect for north and west facing shores of Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai and north facing shores of Maui.

Blocked wells have left Puna Geothermal Ventures falling behind on its contract with Hawaii Electric Light Co., plant manager Mike Kaleikini said Monday.

Maui Land and Pineapple Co. will cease paying for life insurance and medical coverage for all its noncontractual retirees.

While the Kauai County Council continues to tweak a proposed ban on handheld electronics for Kaua‘i drivers, a leading institute on highway safety reported last week that similar laws across the country have not resulted in a lower incidence of traffic accidents.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

UH spring enrollment highest ever, lawmakers eyeing Hurricane Relief Fund for schools, political season kicks off and other top Hawaii news

The recession and a lousy job market continue to fuel enrollment at the University of Hawai'i, which yesterday reported its highest-ever student count for a spring semester.

The University of Hawaii reports opening enrollment for the 10-campus system for the spring 2010 semester was 55,761 students.

A Board of Regents subcommittee is recommending that the University of Hawaii take in more out-of-state students as a way to increase revenue and enhance UH's reputation.

In a first pass at resolving teacher furloughs, the Legislature yesterday moved ahead on bills that would divert money from the Hawai'i Hurricane Relief Fund but delayed action on a proposal to increase taxes or take money from the rainy day fund.

A state Senate committee on Monday approved taking millions of dollars from the state's hurricane relief fund to reduce the number of public school furlough days.

Three state Senate committees passed two bills to end budget-cutting closures at public schools and restore instructional days by taking money from the Hurricane Relief Fund.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann has declined to formally announce whether he is running for governor, but his exploratory committee has raised $2.3 million and already spent $300,000.

Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann is still not an official candidate for governor, but his unofficial campaign treasury is the richest of the potential candidates.

Election officials report brisk business across the state with potential candidates taking out nomination papers to run in the 2010 election.

The 2010 election season is officially underway as Monday marked the first day candidates can start filing for office.

The last time Kohala Councilman Pete Hoffmann introduced a measure limiting plastic bags, the administration vetoed it as being too broad.

A mobile medical van could be serving South Kona and Ka'u residents within months, following 10 years of effort by state Rep. Bob Herkes.

Organizers are calling it Waikapu's "Field of Dreams."

Monday, February 1, 2010

Monk seals in peril, NOAA grant to aid marine research, PUC in dispute, honked horn sets off deadly McDonald's drive-through crash, more news

The 2009 Hawaiian monk seal breeding season produced the fewest pups in at least 10 years as the highly endangered marine mammal species continued its slide toward possible extinction.

A $1 million-a-year grant has been awarded to the University of Hawaii Kewalo Marine Laboratory for five years by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to work with Pacific islanders on land-sea interactions and damage to coral reefs, recreational and fishery resources.

High-ranking military officials opened a gate separating Hickam Air Force Base and Naval Station Pearl Harbor yesterday, starting the process of combining management support at their installations.

A dispute within the three-member Hawai'i Public Utilities Commission threatens to compound problems at the agency, which is already slow at making decisions because of staff and budget cuts.

A honked horn appears to be what set people off in a McDonald's drive-thru, leading to a crash that killed a young woman Sunday.

Water tanks are running dry, lawns are turning brown and the scant rain that has fallen this month is doing little to help.

A mobile medical van could be serving South Kona and Ka'u residents within months, following 10 years of effort by state Rep. Bob Herkes.

With a high cost of living and a tiny economy of limited job prospects, survival on Lanai has never been easy.

Dog owners have only one option when it comes to a place where they can throw Frisbees with their best friends.