County of Hawaii Gets New “Rag” – Mayor Kenoi Joins Twitter and Facebook

When I was over at the APEC Conference, I followed Mayor Kenoi around for a little while and one of the questions I remember this reporter from Washington DC asking him, was if he was on Twitter.

Mayor Kenoi's Social Media Profile Picture

Mayor Kenoi said… “No… but guys like Damon over here are bugging me to get on it” or something to that effect.

Well I just noticed that Hawaii County has a new .PDF Magazine that they are publishing called Holomua.

Here is the press release regarding the new magazine Holouma:

The Mayor’s Office is proud to announce the launch of a new newsletter, Holomua. Paper copies will be available at the Mayor’s Office in Hilo and Kona, and a PDF can be downloaded here at HawaiiCountyMayor.com.

In this edition: the latest segment of Saddle Road is opened, the Mayor test drives an electric vehicle being evaluated for use in the County fleet, and a look at Hawai‘i Island’s representation in Honolulu during the Leaders Week meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation. All this and more in Holomua.

A quick scan of the “rag” looks like they are basically releasing a lot of old press releases and a few new ones on there.

But the thing that really surprised me… is that it appears that Mayor Kenoi is now taking to social media to spread the counties word via his new Facebook Account and his new Twitter Account:

So here is Mayor Kenoi’s first “Tweet” as twitter users like to call their thoughts.

And here is his first posts to his Facebook account:

Mayor Kenoi's First Facebook Posts

UH Hilo Receives Award to Promote Asian American & Pacific Islander Education

The U.S. Department of Education has selected the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo as one of 11 colleges and universities to receive part of a grant through the Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions (AANAPISI) Program for fiscal year 2011-2012.

UH Hilo’s award is $399,977 for the first year and is part of a five-year grant which runs through 2016 totaling $1,994,025. The University will use the funds to develop and implement a comprehensive, culturally informed student support program to strengthen learning, engagement and success.

The key components includes a summer bridge program, academic support services such as advising, tutoring, peer mentoring and financial aid counseling, activities that have been shown to have a high impact on student engagement such as on-campus employment, first-year experience courses, and service-learning and research projects, and faculty development workshops. The project will also conduct and disseminate research into best practices that facilitates the success of Pacific Islanders in higher education.

“Most of the research on Asians and Pacific Islanders aggregates these diverse populations into one monolithic group,” said Jim Mellon, director of international student services and intercultural education at UH Hilo and the project’s principal investigator. “One of the aims of this project is to disaggregate data on these diverse groups, dispel myths about Asian and Pacific Islanders in American higher education, and find out what unique factors contribute to and facilitate their success.”

Mellon added that the project will enable UH Hilo to develop and assess innovative approaches that are informed by cultural values such as the importance of group achievement and to be at the forefront nationally in this area.

Established in 2007, the AANAPISI program seeks to increase the capacity of higher education institutions to better serve disadvantaged college students. With about one of every three students being Asian American or Pacific Islander, UH Hilo was one of the first institutions nationwide to receive an AANAPISI grant when it initiated a similar project in 2008.

“UH Hilo has a proven record as an institution of choice for Pacific Islander students,” noted Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Luoluo Hong. “We want to do all we can to support their success and improve their learning outcomes. Building the new Pacific Islander Student Center was the first step; now we need to ensure we provide needed programs and services.”

Additional information on the AANAPISI Program is available online at http://www2.ed.gov/programs/aanapi/index.html.

Navy Looking to Transfer Hawaii Superferries Into Naval Service of the United States

Well I called this one more then a few years ago!

…The Navy “is working with the U.S. Maritime Administration to permit the transfer of the two high-speed vessels, formerly Hawaii superferries, into the naval service of the United States,” Lt. Cmdr. Alana Garas, a Navy spokeswoman, said Friday.

One of the ferries, the Huakai, was used in the military’s relief efforts after the Haiti earthquake in January 2010. The Navy first expressed interest in the ferries after the Maritime Administration took possession of them in 2009.

The Maritime Administration said Friday that a deal had yet to be reached…

More Here: Navy hope to gain two Hawaiian Superferries

Hawaiian Telcom to Implement its Last, Best and Final Offer to IBEW Local Union 1357

Hawaiian Telcom Holdco, Inc. announced today that with collective bargaining between the Company and IBEW Local 1357 (the “Union”) having reached an impasse, the Company has informed the Union that the terms of the Company’s Last, Best and Final Offer will be implemented effective December 1, 2011.

Company and Union representatives began formal negotiations toward a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) on August 15. In mid-September, a federal labor mediator was also engaged to help facilitate negotiations. The Company engaged in good faith bargaining throughout, but once meaningful progress could not be made, a Last, Best and Final Offer was presented to Union leadership in early October.

The Union rejected the Company’s Offer, and on November 10 and 11 held a 2-day work stoppage while delivering a set of CBA proposals to the Company that included:

- artificial acceleration of Union members’ accrual and vesting of pension benefits to minimums of 55 years old/25 years of service, regardless of actual age and service; immediate cost to Company: over $100 million;

- opportunity for each Union employee to purchase a personal computer reimbursed by the Company up to $2000; cost to Company: up to $1.4 million;

- expanded dental coverage to include cosmetic procedures and orthodontics: cost to Company: unknown;

- employee healthcare contribution of less than two (2) percent; and

- reduced sick leave for 2012, then gradually increased sick leave every year starting in 2013, until returning to the current levels of 26 weeks of fully paid sick leave per year plus the next 26 weeks at 58% pay.

Union leadership’s recent demands, work stoppage, and threats toward employees who elected to work during the work stoppage indicate that the period of good faith bargaining has passed.

The rules and processes governing collective bargaining provide a mechanism for parties to move forward when a compromise agreement is clearly not possible and negotiations reach an impasse. Hawaiian Telcom is proceeding according to those processes by implementing its Last, Best and Final Offer effective December 1, 2011.

The terms of the Company’s Offer – 1% annual compounded wage increase for 3 years, $500 bonus annually for 3 years, up to 8 weeks of sick leave, healthcare at 10% employee contribution, and enhanced 401(k) match while freezing pension at current values – reasonably consider the compensation and benefits packages of industry peers, the highly competitive telecommunications industry, and current economic realities. By implementing the Last, Best and Final Offer at this time, Hawaiian Telcom is acting with the best interests of customers, all employees, and the Company’s future in mind.

Forward-Looking Statements

In addition to historical information, this release includes certain statements and predictions that constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. In particular, any statement, projection or estimate that includes or references the words “believes”, “anticipates”, “intends”, “expects”, or any similar expression falls within the safe harbor of forward-looking statements contained in the Reform Act. Actual results or outcomes may differ materially from those indicated or suggested by any such forward-looking statement for a variety of reasons. More information on potential risks and uncertainties is available in recent filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including Hawaiian Telcom’s 2010 Annual Report on Form 10-K and its Form 10-Q filed November 14, 2011. The information contained in this release is as of November 21, 2011. It is anticipated that subsequent events and developments may cause estimates to change.

About Hawaiian Telcom

Hawaiian Telcom Holdco, Inc., headquartered in Honolulu, is Hawaii’s leading provider of integrated communications solutions for business and residential customers. With roots in Hawaii beginning in 1883, the Company offers a full range of services including voice, video, Internet, data, wireless, and advanced communication and network services supported by the reach and reliability of its network and Hawaii’s only 24/7 state-of-the-art network operations center. With employees statewide sharing a commitment to innovation and a passion for delivering superior service, Hawaiian Telcom provides an Always OnSM customer experience. For more information, visit www.hawaiiantel.com

Councilman Pete Hoffman’s Budget Rumblings and the “800 Pound Gorilla”

I know this is only November, but the first rumbles from the next budget ‘brawl’ have appeared. Perhaps that’s not such a terrible thing; after all, the budget should remain one of the principal legislative measures throughout the year, particularly in time of economic distress.

First we have the announcement of the Operating Fund Balance for the prior fiscal year 2010-2011 ending 30 June 2011. The Mayor indicated that we have in excess of $24M as a fund balance, as compared to a $14M projected balance. That isn’t bad and the administration has the right to ‘pat itself on the back’ a little, as it demonstrated fiscal restraint and budget management. The administration cited cuts in expenses, hiring delays, and other actions that reduced costs and made the fund balance larger than estimated. In that analysis, however, I heard nothing about the fact that the FY 2010-2011 budget featured increased property tax rates, thereby generating additional revenue to offset lower property tax assessments. I remember arguing strongly against such rate increases as being unnecessary and potentially damaging to future investment. That advice was ignored, although the tax rate increases proved unnecessary and ill-advised.

Now the Council has entered the early phases of the budget battle with a proposal to alter the mileage reimbursement program for Councilmen. This is touted as the first of several measures designed to tighten expenditures. Currently, Council members have the option to claim a $600 a month flat rate stipend for mileage or else itemize claiming a $.55 per mile reimbursement. For some years, I was the only Council member who itemized mileage, (I understand Ms. Smart now itemizes as well), calculating that it would be to my advantage, most of the times, since I drove many more miles on County business. Some months, however, particularly if I were off-island, that reimbursement would be less than $600. Those who received the flat rate most likely were not driving $600 worth of miles and it is to their advantage not to itemize.

Mr. Yagong’s proposal is to have all Council members itemize mileage and reimburse for that amount only, eliminating the $600 flat rate option. Sounds good to me. I can support that proposal and whatever other changes the Council Chair wishes to make on this issue. We will save a little money along the way. And I’m certain there are other budget measures that can be taken to reduce expenditures. The Council should be prepared to consider each in turn. Some have criticized this effort as ‘election year politics’. Perhaps so. Let’s remember, however, that all Council members are participants in a political process called County government. Politics are part of that system and, with an election year just around the corner, we can expect a rush of similar measures to dot the landscape in the near future.

With that in mind, I have no difficulty supporting such ‘budget savers’. My only comment would be that there are many other such ‘savings’ that could be proposed that have much deeper impact on our strained economy. Consider for example that approximately 65% of the County’s budget is in some manner connected with personnel costs. When will we as a Council recognize that if real savings are to occur, some dent must be made in staffing? I know. This is an election year and not a good time to advocate personnel reductions. But until the Council and the administration jointly address that “800 pound gorilla,” all other proposals pale in significance and the cries of ‘just another political ploy’ will gain meaning among County voters.

As difficult as it may seem, we must be willing to deal with the controversial items at the same time we are willing to propose the small ‘savings’. The public will not be satisfied until we do, and our credibility as a Council will continue to suffer accordingly. Finally, to put the Council mileage issue in perspective, if anyone’s interested while we are considering budget ‘savings’, let’s not forget that the County continues to subsidize golf to the tune of $833K during this fiscal year in which we’ve deferred (not saved) some $29M in expenses.

Last item: since I’ve mentioned golf subsidies, I now understand that the County might be willing to raise the fees at the Hilo Course slightly in order to offset costs and hopefully break-even. I couldn’t agree more, and while I’ve argued this point for the previous two budget cycles, I salute the County’s willingness to now recognize this first step makes perfect sense during these tough economic times. Might the second step be to eliminate the $500K golf subsidy for West Hawaii?

We can expect to hear more about budget matters as we move forward. We do need to make the small changes. We also must have the courage to address the bigger items as well.

Pete Hoffman

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Toys for Tots Cancelled by the Hawaii Police Department Saved by Miracle

Rock & Roll Motorcycle Club, Inc. is pleased to announce that the 16th Annual Toys for Tots motorcade and rally will take place as scheduled on Sunday, December 11, 2011.

Motorcade participants are asked to show up at 9 a.m. as the 300-plus member motorcade will begin promptly at 10 a.m. From Aunty Sally’s Lu’au Hale on Pi’ilani St. , the convoy will head down Kalanikoa St. towards Kamehameha Ave. where it will turn right and head out towards Keaukaha along Kalaniana’ole Ave.   At 4 Miles beach, they will u-turn and head back into town, turning right onto Banyan Drive, rumbling by Lili’uokalani Park and onto Manono St. where they will return to Aunty Sally’s.

The public is invited to attend an exciting rally that will start at 10:45 a.m. with live music from ‘Ol School Band, refreshments and concessions items.  Santa Claus will appear at 12 noon.  Unwrapped gift items are welcome for children ages 0-12 yrs old.  “We are thrilled with the amount and quality of the toys that are donated every year.  Last year, 47 bikes and more than 2,800 toys were donated to the children and families of the Big Island .  Although, we would appreciate having a few more for the girls, ages 9-12”, said Toys for Tots motorcade and rally organizer, Mr. Ellsworth Fontes.  Prior to December 11, toys can be dropped off at Ellsworth’s Custom Cycles on 969 Kino’ole St. or at Springleaf Financial at 395 Kino’ole St.

On Sunday, November 20, the Hawai’i Tribune Herald reported that organizers had cancelled the much anticipated event due to permitting discrepancies with the Hawai’i Police Department.  However, all conflicts were ironed out and the show will go on.  “The Police Department fully supports Toys for Tots.  This is a terrific event for the kids, nobody wants it cancelled, so I’m really happy to see that the event will take place,” said Captain Robert Wagner who oversees Area I permit requests.

Fontes, who also serves as president for the Rock & Roll Motorcycle Club stated, “This couldn’t happen without the tremendous support of Mayor Billy Kenoi… Christmas is on again, for the needy children of the Big Island .  In the spirit of Christmas, I’m happy that it all worked out.

Hilohub Becomes Hawaii Island’s First Co-Shared Work Space

In an October 4th article in the Wall Street Journal author Emily Glazer says, “Shared workspaces are the latest trend in office space.”

Recognizing a need and having the appropriate office space John K. Kai, president and founder of Pinnacle Investment Group, LLC on Kinoole Street in Hilo, Hawaii, has formed “hilohub” to meet growing demand for affordable and professional work spaces.

“Co-shared work spaces can lead to collaboration, new opportunities, partnerships, and referrals,” says Kai. “At hilohub we provide all the physical tools anyone might need in a workspace setting. But we also believe that those who take advantage of the space will soon find that it’s about more than finding a desk.”

hilohub is strategically located within minutes of State and County of Hawaii offices, University of Hawaii at Hilo, Hilo Judiciary Complex and Hilo Medical Center.

Whether an attorney traveling from off-island to Hilo for a court appointment, a Kona businessman who needs a private space for a meeting, or a startup looking for a place to connect, create, and collaborate without interruption, hilohub may well prove to be ideal. hilohub provides an excellent alternative to the “coffice,” a term reserved for those that try to conduct business from coffee shop locations with free, yet unsecure wifi, blaring music and ever present chair squatters.

According to the Wall Street Journal article, while co-shared work spaces have been popular with technology start-ups in the San Francisco Bay Area looking for affordable space, only recently have they been popping up in cities around the country. Picking up on this growing trend, Loosecubes created an online marketplace for office sharing and their site lists 2,300 spaces in nearly 500 cities and 65 countries.

“We are confident there is a demand for temporary space. At hilohub, users will find high-speed and secure wifi, flexible workstations, free parking, air conditioning, and free coffee. Really everything a busy entrepreneur might need for a day or more of work in Hilo at a very affordable and value-added rate,” Kai explained. hilohub daily rates begin at $40. Monthly rates range from $150 to $225 depending on the length of commitment and use of the conference room.
Kai’s Pinnacle Investment Group LLC was formed in Hilo in 1999. He has worked extensively in the field of financial advisory services since 1991 and has been and is active in various organizations in the Hilo community. For more information about hilohub, located in the Kukuau Plaza at 688 Kinoole Street in Hilo, call Kai at 808-933-1828, visit www.hilohub.com, and follow them on Facebook and Twitter @hilohub.