Grassroot Institute ‘Celebrates’ Hawaii’s Tax Freedom Day

In an effort to help Hawaii’s citizens better understand the state tax burden, the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii is wishing them all a “Happy Tax Freedom Day” today via social media.

Tax Freedom Day
Based on calculations by theTax Foundation, Tax Freedom Day is the day when taxpayers have collectively earned enough to satisfy the tax bill for that year. In other words, for the average Hawaii citizen, if he or she had dedicated every penny of their earnings to their tax bill from the beginning of the year, then today (April 15th) would be the day that bill would be “paid off.”

Hawaii ranks in the middle of the pack for state Tax Freedom Days. Louisiana has the lowest burden (their Tax Freedom Day was March 30th), while Connecticut and New Jersey are the highest (May 9th). The National Tax Freedom Day (using figures from the country as a whole) is on April 21st, three days later than last year–which reflects the slow economic recovery. (As a point of comparison, consider that Tax Freedom Day in the year 1900 would have fallen on January 22nd.)

“Hawaii’s economic recovery has a lot to do with our better-than-average performance,” stated Keli’i Akina, President of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. “However, we’ve taken a small step backward and should be wary of policies that will increase the tax burden and slow our economic growth.”

“Most people don’t realize just how hard and long they work to pay their tax bill,” Dr. Akina continued. “We hope that this helps put that into perspective and encourages taxpayers to demand greater fiscal responsibility and accountability from the government and their elected officials.”

Big Island to Launch Global Virtual Studio Transmedia Accelerator

Beginning April 11th, 2014 Global Virtual Studio (GVS), in partnership with the County of Hawaii and the state’s Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT), the Hawaii Strategic Development Corporation (HSDC), and Creative Industries Division (CID) is set to launch the GVS Transmedia Accelerator.

Hawaii entrepreneurs in the creative industries are often forced to take their talents outside of Hawaii to create intellectual property (IP), only for it to be owned by someone else. The traditional Hollywood model is being challenged by the accelerator model, a disruptive concept empowering the creative entrepreneur to own their IP.

This cutting-edge initiative will empower Hawaii’s creative minds to realize and launch original transmedia franchises for commercial audiences with an investment of $50,000 and mentorship to each selected startup franchise.

Accelerator

The founder of the GVS Transmedia Accelerator is Big Island raised and Konawaena High School graduate, David L. Cunningham, a seasoned filmmaker in both independent and studio arenas. Cunningham made one of Hawaii‘s first independent films, “Beyond Paradise,” as well as the World War II drama “To End All Wars,” starring Kiefer Sutherland, filmed on Kaua’i. Cunningham says, “As a studio filmmaker I was constantly trying to find ways to live and work in the Islands. My wife and I wanted to raise our kids in the same environment we were fortunate to have. Dramatic shifts in the entertainment industry have now made it possible for myself and other filmmakers to work from our home state.”

Mayor Billy Kenoi stated, “The Accelerator Program will be the anchor activity of Honua Studios, newly established in Kailua-Kona with support from the Hawaii County Council. We envision this new facility being a creative hub to attract and support entrepreneurs and industry professionals and increase the number of productions here on Hawaii.”

The Accelerator is part of a surge of activity supported by the HI Growth Initiative (led by HSDC President, Karl Fooks) and Chief Officer of CID, Georja Skinner. Programs like Blue Startups, Hawai’i International Film Festival’s (HIFF) Creative Labs and more are designed to create a synergistic environment statewide.

The GVS Transmedia Accelerator will accept six entrepreneurial teams into the intensive program each year and will provide them with the seed capital and world-class mentors to develop their startup franchises into successful businesses. The goal is to see the best up-and-coming entrepreneurs in Hawaii reach their potential right here in the state.

Cunningham and several other active innovators, including Ralph Winter (Producer of “X-Men” and “Fantastic Four” movies); Mike Frank (Co-founder of Level 3 Communications) and Grant Curtis (Producer of the “Spider-Man” Trilogy, “Oz: The Great and Powerful”) and others will serve as advisors.

The application period for the Program begins April 11th and the Accelerator is slated to launch its first cycle in June 2014. Qualifying applicants must have a commercially viable startup with at least three revenue-generating media platforms. For more information, contact accel(at)globalvirtualstudio(dot)com or visit http://www.globalvirtualstudio.com.

Parker Ranch Launches Paniolo Power Company

Parker Ranch has launched a new subsidiary, Paniolo Power Company LLC, Neil “Dutch” Kuyper, CEO of Parker Ranch, Inc., announced today.
Parker Cows
“The preliminary results from our energy team, led by Siemens, tell us there is the real opportunity to attract capital to invest in our community grid concept,” Kuyper said.

Parker Ranch hired a consortium led by Siemens to evaluate the merits of a community-based energy solution for Greater Waimea and Kohala as well as prepare a utility-grade integrated resource plan.

Hawaii Island electric rates from Hawaii Electric Light Co. (HELCO) are consistently more than 37 cents a kilowatt-hour, and often well over 40 cents, despite nearly half of the island’s electricity being generated from renewable sources. The national average for electricity rates last year was 12.5 cents per kilowatt-hour.

“We think that the residents and businesses of the Big Island could be better served by a series of community solutions with regional level distributed generation focusing on our plentiful renewable resources,” said Kuyper.

“Because our island is so large, it is in a sense a few islands within the island.  Waimea is 55 miles from Kona and 60 miles from Hilo.  A combination of several regional solutions for the various parts of the island seems to make logical sense.”

Kuyper said that Paniolo Power has begun discussions with potential operating and capital partners to manage and fund the effort. “We are pleased and excited about the inquiries that we have received in recent months to co-invest in our concept.  My background lends itself to raise capital for these kinds of investments,” said Kuyper.

Parker Ranch will present the preliminary findings on its Integrated Resource Plan study to the Waimea Community Association Thursday, April 3, 5:15 p.m. in the Waimea School Cafeteria.

Governor Releases $58.4 Million for University of Hawaii System Facilities

Gov. Neil Abercrombie today announced the release of more than $58.4 million to the University of Hawaii (UH) system for capital improvement projects (CIP) at various campuses that will further energize our growing construction industry to help sustain our economy.

abercrombieheader“A majority of these funds are going to improvements at our community colleges, which make up the largest sector of the UH system,” Gov. Abercrombie said. “These projects will help increase job growth and ultimately improves our state’s affordable education opportunities.”

Allotment of funds for the following projects, identified by state legislators, has been approved by the Governor:

$38,213,000 – Honolulu Community College Advanced Technology Training Center, Oahu – Construction funds for a new three-story facility for science- and technology-related programs. The building will include classrooms, offices and laboratories, and will support technical workforce development in areas including diversified agriculture, aquaculture, renewable energy development and creative media. UH indicates that Honolulu Community College has established itself as the technological training center of the Pacific and has the expertise in technical workforce development to warrant a new facility.

$6,500,000 – Minor Capital Improvements Program Projects for Campuses of the Community College System, Oahu – Design and construction funds for the renovations of Kapiolani Community College’s (KCC) Kopiko Building, Wing B ($3,500,000) and Windward Community College’s (WCC) Hale Naauao ($3,000,000). KCC project includes renovating the building’s first floor (Wing B). Built in 1994, Wing B has three classrooms used by the nursing program, and will be upgraded with current technology and renovated to connect with the outdoor courtyard. WCC project includes renovations for the TRiO and special project programs including air conditions installation, restroom upgrades and converting spaces into offices, storage rooms, a staff room and a conference room. The 10,150-gross-square-foot building was constructed in 1930 and has not been renovated to meet the College’s academic and technological needs. The TRiO program includes Student Support Services, Talent Search and Upward Bound, which help disadvantaged and low-income individuals graduate from secondary/post-secondary institutions.

$6,312,000 – Coconut Island, Oahu – Design and construction funds to renovate the interior of the Old Pauley Laboratory for the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology. The research institute specializes in tropical marine biology, and is located on the 28-acre Coconut Island in Kaneohe Bay.

$5,415,000 – Coconut Island, Oahu – Planning, design and construction funds for improvements at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology. Improvements include utility upgrades, replacement/rehabilitation of existing sewer lines by direct drilling between Oahu and Coconut Island under Kaneohe Bay, sewer pump replacement and wet-well repairs, and rerouting of north end sewer lines.

$2,000,000 – University of Hawaii at Hilo, Office of Mauna Kea Management, Hawaii Island – Design and construction funds for infrastructure improvements within UH’s managed lands on Mauna Kea, renovate mid-level facilities at Hale Pohaku and improve the summit access road. The summit access road between the mid-level facilities and the Mauna Kea summit needs improvement. A section of the road was paved in the late 1980s and is deteriorated due to age, snow, rock debris and natural earth shifting. The Visitor Information Center (58-person capacity) is also overextended in terms of parking and facility infrastructure, and is unable to accommodate the significant increase in visitors who come for stargazing activities.

60 Seniors Selected for Mohouli Heights Senior Neighborhood Project

Phase 1 of the Mohouli Heights Senior Neighborhood project will be dedicated on Thursday, March 27, 2014 at 11:00 am.
Mohouli
The sixty-unit senior housing project developed by the Hawaii Island Community Development Corporation (HICDC) represents the initial phase of an eventual 15.9-acre senior complex that will include the relocation of the Hilo Adult Day Center and up to an additional 90 senior residential housing units.

A site blessing for the planned Hilo Adult Day Center building follows the dedication.

“The Hawaii Island Community Development Corporation wishes to acknowledge the assistance that we have received for this project from all levels of Federal, State and County governments,” said HICDC Executive Director Keith Kato.  “Their collective willingness to partner with us is allowing 60 local senior families the ability to move into affordable housing near their families.
We are now moving forward to continue the next phase of the development of the Mohouli Heights Senior Neighborhood project with a new home for the Hilo Adult Day Center to replace their current facility at the old Hilo Memorial Hospital on Rainbow Drive.”

Hilo Friendly Design
The Mohouli Heights Senior Neighborhood project has been designed with Hilo’s rainy climate in mind.  All of the units have cross ventilation provided by doors and windows on the front and back of the units and covered walkways connecting all units to the rest of the complex, including the community center which has a laundry, mailboxes and a large activity room.  All units are one-bedroom, one-bath, a full kitchen and are approximately 590 square feet in size.

60 Seniors Selected Through Lottery Process
The first 60 tenants have been selected through a lottery process run by the County of Hawaii’s Office of Housing and Community Development who volunteered to be the initial point of contact for all units whether the units will receive rental assistance through the County’s Section 8 program or HUD’s Section 202 program. The Office of Housing and Community Development decided that being the initial point of contact for both programs would be less confusing for the senior applicants.

The $19.5 million senior housing complex is being funded by an $8.3 million capital advance from the HUD Section 202 program and $11.25 million in equity derived from the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program. The $11.25 million in equity is being provided by American Savings Bank, Bank of Hawaii, First Hawaiian Bank and Island Insurance Company of Hawaii.  Interim construction financing was also provided by the an $8.6 million loan from the State of Hawaii Rental Housing Trust Fund and a $4.0 million loan from the Rural Community Assistance Corporation.

Hilo Adult Day Center Site Blessing
The Hilo Adult Day Center is currently operating in the old Hilo Hospital on Rainbow Drive.  This present structure, built in 1924, is inadequate to serve the future needs for the growing Day Center over the next 60-70 years.

The Hilo Adult Day Center Board of Directors have long sought an alternative location and are glad that the project has picked up momentum.  Plans for the new facility are being drawn, paid for by a $200,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) from the County of Hawaii.  Additional funding has been secured during the past two legislative sessions in totaling $1.385 million.

Governor Neil Abercrombie recently announced the release of $385,000 which will go toward the design and construction of the requisite infrastructure to support the Hilo Adult Day Center.  The fundraising goal of $7.5 million has been aided by a $500,000 CDBG grant being proposed this year.  It is anticipated that future funding from the State of Hawaii, private trusts and foundations and community contributions will complete the funding for this needed project.

The Mohouli project represents the Hawaii Island Community Development Corporation’s seventh senior housing complex on the island.  Citing a clear need for such housing, HICDC is planning to pursue funding to develop additional senior housing units at the Mohouli complex as well as projects in Kona.

The 15.9-acre site fronting Komohana Street was conveyed by the State of Hawaii through Executive Order to the County of Hawaii in 2008 for the purpose of developing a senior housing complex and related uses.  The County of Hawaii in turn leased the site to HICDC in 2009 and HICDC secured the necessary funding commitments in 2011.  Site grading commenced in early 2012 followed by the building construction.  The project was granted its Certificates of Occupancy in December 2013.

Hawaiian Electric Companies Share Daily Solar and Wind Power Data

The Hawaiian Electric Companies are now sharing “Renewable Watch” for Oahu, Maui and Hawaii Island, online displays that show the daily contribution of solar and wind generation on each island and how energy from these resources changes throughout the day.

The orange line measures the amount of energy produced by PV throughout Hawaii Island. The green line measures the wind energy production from wind facilities on Hawaii Island. The blue line represents the net system load, which is the amount of energy met by utility generation. The light blue line is the gross system load, which is the total demand, or the total amount of electricity used by customers, on the system. This demand is met by a combination of what is served by the utility and what is provided by local distributed systems, such as PV on rooftops. The difference between the blue and light blue lines represents the estimated aggregated distributed generation produced by local PV generation. This estimate provides a good estimate of how much energy is being produced by rooftop PV systems without our having to meter every rooftop PV system. This perspective provided operations and planning personnel with the information to gauge the impact of rooftop PV on system load and helped explain the decrease in mid-day load. (Click to Enlarge)

The orange line measures the amount of energy produced by PV throughout Hawaii Island.
The green line measures the wind energy production from wind facilities on Hawaii Island.
The blue line represents the net system load, which is the amount of energy met by utility generation.
The light blue line is the gross system load, which is the total demand, or the total amount of electricity used by customers, on the system. This demand is met by a combination of what is served by the utility and what is provided by local distributed systems, such as PV on rooftops.
The difference between the blue and light blue lines represents the estimated aggregated distributed generation produced by local PV generation. This estimate provides a good estimate of how much energy is being produced by rooftop PV systems without our having to meter every rooftop PV system. This perspective provided operations and planning personnel with the information to gauge the impact of rooftop PV on system load and helped explain the decrease in mid-day load.
(Click to Enlarge)

Displays for each island can be found on the homepage under Clean Energy Future at www.hawaiianelectric.com for Oahu, on www.mauielectric.com for Maui Island and www.hawaiielectriclight.com for the Island of Hawaii.

Each island’s display shows the measured output from large wind and solar facilities combined with the estimated output from residential rooftop PV systems. These sites graphically show how renewable energy resources can vary significantly by region, day, and time of day due to changes in weather, such as wind strength and cloud cover. (Non-variable renewable energy generation — such as geothermal on Hawaii Island, bagasse-fired generation from HC&S on Maui and HPOWER on Oahu — are not shown.)

“Hawaii is blessed with abundant sunshine and strong winds. With the ‘Renewable Watch’ displays, anyone can see at a glance that these are extremely productive resources with output that varies throughout the day,” said Scott Seu, Hawaiian Electric vice president for energy resources and operations. “With the help of these resources and others, we reached a record 18% renewable energy percentage in 2013.”

The Solar Electric Power Association ranks Hawaii number one in the nation for solar watts per customer. At the end of 2013, over 40,000 solar installations across the three companies’ service territories had a combined capacity of about 300 megawatts.

To maintain reliable electric service for all customers, utility engineers must adjust the output of firm sources of generation up or down as the output from variable sources like solar and wind rises and falls throughout the day. The Hawaiian Electric Companies developed “Renewable Watch” to help system operators and engineers obtain information about the contribution of energy from the variable solar and wind resources.

“This information can help us integrate higher levels of renewable energy more effectively. Solar and wind power are increasingly important to our energy mix, so we need to understand when and how these resources affect our system,” Seu said.

Data from wind facilities and utility-scale solar facilities for “Renewable Watch” comes from utility system-monitoring equipment. Data for customer-sited solar power comes from regional estimates using solar sensors strategically placed throughout the islands and other sources.  Solar sensors monitor irradiance (the rate at which solar energy falls onto a surface) to help estimate the energy generated by thousands of PV systems across the island.

Displays of additional renewable resources will be added to “Renewable Watch” screens as they come online.

Counterfeit Bills Being Circulated in Puna – Bogus

Last night I went into the 7-11 store to take out cash from the cash machine and all of a sudden I hear the clerk saying really loud… “That’s a counterfeit bill… I can’t take that!”

Would you be able to tell this is a fake bill?

Would you be able to tell this is a fake bill?

I got up to the cash register and asked the clerk what just happened and she said someone tried to pass off another counterfeit $5.00 bill onto the store.  I said “another” and she turned to the other clerk on duty and he said it was like the second one that has been tried to be passed onto the store in the last week.  They also mentioned that even $1.00 bills were being counterfeited.

I asked the clerk if they called the police and she said no… the company doesn’t call the police as there is just too much paperwork to be filled out every time someone tries to pass one off.

I thought about this and then went to Paul’s Gas Station at the end of Pahoa Town and while I was paying for my gas there… I noticed they had a $5.00 bill taped to the wall.  I asked the lady at Paul’s Gas Station if they had also had any counterfeit bills being passed onto them… and she said yes.  Recently they have had quite a few people trying to pass on bogus bills and one even got through.

The clerk uses a pen to mark the bill to see if it is a fake bill.

The clerk uses a pen to mark the bill to see if it is a fake bill.

So if stores like 7-11 and Paul’s Gas Station are being targeted… I can only imagine what might be going on elsewhere.  I can only imagine a place like the Maku’u Farmers Market being a prime place for these folks to pass on these bogus bills to unsuspecting folks… and then perfectly innocent folks get caught up in trying to purchase something with them legally.

You can purchase pens that detect counterfeit bills online.

You can purchase pens that detect counterfeit bills online.

Be vigilant and realize that folks are passing $5.00 bills and $1.00 bills that are bogus around Pahoa right now and if you are a merchant… you may want to invest in a pen that can detect bogus bills.

 

Governor Abercrombie Releases $100,000 for Hawaii County Economic Opportunity Council Offices in Naalehu and Honokaa

Gov. Neil Abercrombie today announced the release of two grants totaling $100,000 to Hilo-based nonprofit Hawaii County Economic Opportunity Council (HCEOC) for its Naalehu and Honokaa offices.

HCEOC Naalehu Office

HCEOC Naalehu Office

The Governor approved the allotment of funds in the amount of $50,000 each for the Naalehu and Honokaa offices for planning, design and construction for emergency repairs and access improvements, as identified by members of the state Legislature.

“This money will be used to improve accessibility for our kupuna and the disabled, particularly those living in remote communities,” Gov. Abercrombie said. “These funds represent an investment in community and nonprofit efforts that will have significant impacts in the lives of local individuals and families they serve.”

HCEOC Honokaa Office

HCEOC Honokaa Office

Repair of HCEOC satellite offices will facilitate outreach and services (transportation, energy and education programs) to disadvantaged residents dispersed in rural communities on Hawaii Island. A popular program is the federally funded Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which subsidizes electricity or gas bills of qualified disadvantaged households. Each June, HCEOC provides outreach for the energy assistance program administered by the state Department of Human Services and local utility companies.

County of Hawai’i Offering Home Repair Loans

The Office of Housing and Community Development is currently accepting applications to its’ Residential Emergency Repair Program (RERP).

countylogo

The RERP program was established in 1997 to make low interest loans available to low-and moderate-income homeowners who are interested in repairing and improving their primary residence. The RERP loan can be used for roof repairs, electrical and plumbing work, sewer improvements, termite treatment and damages caused by termites or wood rot and the installation of a solar water heating system.

Loans range from $2,500 to $25,000 at 3% interest. Loan payments are deferred for 15 years, at which time full payment will be due. Applicants 62 years or older or with special needs, may have 30% of the principal balance of the loan forgiven as a grant.

For more information or an application packet contact Brandi Ah Yo at 959-4642. Application packets can also be found on-line at http://www.hawaiicounty.gov/office-of-housing.

Pahoa High and Intermediate to Get New $3.5 Million Dollar Expansion On Gymnasium

Gov. Neil Abercrombie today announced the release of more than $65.6 million to the state Department of Education (DOE) for capital improvement projects (CIP) that will improve dozens of public schools across the state, while adding local jobs and enhance economic conditions.

“Including the $62.4 million released for DOE projects last week, my administration has now announced the release of more than $600 million dollars for education improvements,” Gov. Abercrombie said. “This is an investment in our keiki and our strengthening economy.”

Kaiser High School Head Football Coach Rich Miano said, “This project will have an immediate impact on four schools that use Kaiser’s athletic facilities as their home venue. It will also benefit the whole state of Hawaii because we will be able to host a variety of events including Special Olympics and NFL combines.”

Allotment of funds for the following projects, identified by state legislators, has been approved by the Governor:

$25,850,000 – King Kekaulike High New Auditorium, Maui – Construction funds for an auditorium to complete previously-initiated design work. The school currently uses its cafeteria stage and student dining area for performing arts and assembly-type functions. The new auditorium will be a standalone structure and will provide support for performing arts and music programs at the school.

$15,000,000 – Farrington High Campus Modernization (Phase 1), Oahu – Design and construction funds to implement Phase 1 of the school’s campus modernization project. The project will start with upgrades to athletic facilities and include a new synthetic track and field and a new locker/shower facility. Future phases will replace the backlog of repair and maintenance projects associated with a master rehabilitation plan of the entire campus.

$5,000,000 – Kawananakoa Middle Auditorium, Oahu – Design and construction funds to renovate the school’s auditorium to meet current Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility, building and fire codes, along with modernization of the facility as a performing arts center.

$4,850,000 – Kaiser High Girls Athletic Locker Room, Oahu – Design and construction funds for new athletic and locker and shower facilities for female students to meet gender equality requirements at the school. There is currently only a physical education (PE) locker room for female students.

Pahoa's New Gym

$3,500,000 – Pahoa High and Intermediate Gym, Hawaii Island – Design and construction funds for renovations and expansion of the school’s gymnasium to include a wrestling and locker/showers room.

$3,000,000 – East Kapolei Middle, Oahu – Design funds for a new school to address projected needs in the Kapolei area, which is currently served by Ilima Intermediate, Ewa Makai Middle and Kapolei Middle. By completing this school in the near future, a reduction in student enrollment will allow Kapolei Middle to transition off its current multi-track schedule.

$1,000,000 – Pearl City Elementary Electrical Upgrades, Oahu – Design and construction funds to address various electrical and related site work to provide for current and future technology needs at the school. Electrical work includes upgrading electrical transformers and panels, telecommunication systems, electrical outlets and data ports.

$1,000,000 – Campbell High Electrical Upgrades, Oahu – Design and construction funds to address various electrical and related site work to provide for current and future technology needs at the school. Electrical work includes upgrading electrical transformers and panels, telecommunication systems, electrical outlets and data ports.

$880,000 – Honowai Elementary New Classroom Building, Oahu – Design funds for a building with eight classrooms, restrooms, a faculty workroom and custodial closets.

$700,000 – Mauka Lani Elementary Electrical Upgrades, Oahu – Design and construction funds to address various electrical and related site work to provide for current and future technology needs at the school. Electrical work includes upgrading electrical transformers and panels, telecommunication systems, electrical outlets and data ports.

$755,000 – Waipahu High Track & Field Facility Improvements, Oahu – This project will start the design phase of a new synthetic track and field surface at the school. An old cinder track and grass field presently exists, and this project will allow for a competition track venue in the Leeward District, which presently has none.

$550,000 – Pearl City High Track & Field Facility Improvements, Oahu – This project will start the design phase of a new synthetic track and field surface at the school. An old cinder track and grass field presently exists, and this project will allow for a competition track venue in the Leeward District, which presently has none.

$550,000 – Niu Valley Middle New Classrooms, Oahu – Design funds for four new classrooms to support the “International Baccalaureate Middle Year” (IBMY) program at the school. Niu Valley is an accredited IBMY school and all of its students are required to take a second language.

$550,000 – Kohala High Architectural Barrier Removal, Hawaii Island – Construction funds to complete architectural barrier removal at school and provide program accessibility for the disabled in accordance with federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines.

$500,000 – Hilo Intermediate New PE Locker Room and Renovations, Hawaii Island – Design funds to replace and renovate the PE locker room and shower facilities at the school.

$475,000 – Kanoelani Elementary New Portable Classroom, Oahu – Design, equipment and construction funds for a portable classroom to address school enrollment (approximately 800 students/year), which has required moving a kindergarten class into a teachers’ workroom due to lack of space.

$450,000 – Kaiser High Track & Field Facility Improvements, Oahu – This project will start the design phase of a new synthetic track and field surface at the school to replace the aged synthetic track and grass field and also provide related improvements for facility maintenance and support.

$400,000 – Waimanalo Elementary and Intermediate New Science, Technology & Media Building, Oahu – Design funds for a new building. Classroom building on campus, built in the early 1950s through 1962, do not meet standards relating to science, technology or media education.

$200,000 – Waipahu High Campus Retaining Wall, Oahu – Design and construction funds for a retaining wall behind Buildings C to Q in order to alleviate ground movement affecting these buildings. The project may also include landscaping and related improvements adjacent to the planned retaining wall.

$175,000 – Waikele Elementary Play Courts Resurfacing and New Playground Installation, Oahu – This project is to resurface the basketball court and replace aged, outdated and non-functioning play equipment in order to provide age appropriate pre-kindergarten playground equipment.

$120,000 – Pearl City Highlands Elementary Building G Administration Expansion and Renovation, Oahu – Design funds for additional administration space in Building G, which currently has an administration space deficit of more than 60 percent compared to the size of a typical elementary school.

$75,000 – Lahaina Intermediate Pedestrian Safety Improvements, Maui – Design funds addressing issues such as safe crosswalk placement, an island for pedestrians within the wide driveway and improvements for proper drainage.

$70,000 – Nuuanu Elementary Walkway Roof Repair and Renovation, Oahu – Construction funds for repairs and renovation of the walkway roof from between the administration building and the covered play court. The school has regular rainfall and this has resulted in some parts of the covered walkway to sag.

$2,500 – Moanalua High Auditorium/Performing Arts Center, Oahu – Additional construction funds for a rehearsal hall/band room and instructional support spaces.

Pahoa Round-A-Bout to Cost an Estimated $4.8 Million

The Highway 130 round-a-bout that will be going in soon in Pahoa at the Malama Market intersection went out to bid on March 6th and the bidding ended with Isemoto Construction putting in the lowest bid.

The Planned Pahoa round-a-bout.

The Planned Pahoa round-a-bout

Former blogger Aaron Stene said, “The bid result has to be verified and awarded. Then the HDOT has to give a Notice to Proceed. That’s when the clock starts for Isemoto to begin work. This may take a couple months to work though.”

Nan, Inc. and Jas W. Glover also submitted bids, however Isemoto was the lowest bidder at $4,819,150.00.

Isemoto Bid

County of Hawai‘i Releases Stage 1 Request for Proposals for Waste Reduction Technology

Mayor Billy Kenoi officially launched the drive to develop a clean, modern and efficient waste reduction technology for the County of Hawai‘i with the release of Stage 1 of the county’s request for proposals (RFP) on March 3.

The RFP process will allow the county to select a proven, economically viable and environmentally friendly process for managing solid waste from East Hawai‘i for at least the next 20 to 30 years, Mayor Kenoi said.

Public Landfill

“For the past two decades this county engaged in study after study to determine the best way to cope with the required closure of the South Hilo Sanitary Landfill,” Mayor Kenoi said.  “It is now time to act. We are inviting the best and brightest in the industry to submit their proposals for a state-of-the-art facility that will benefit our community, and allow us to transform our solid waste from a liability into an asset.”

The county will continue its commitment to recycling, including a program to provide mulch made from green waste for agricultural and other uses. In 2013 the county recycled more than 217 tons of materials per day, including metals, glass, plastics and green waste. The waste reduction project will not affect those efforts, Mayor Kenoi said.

The design-build-operate RFP calls for a facility that can accommodate about 300 tons of solid waste per day. The facility will be built near the existing county Sort Station, and will be privately financed. Stage 1 of the RFP will identify the most qualified teams and technologies for the project.

Mayor Kenoi briefed the Hawaii County Council Committee on Environmental Management on the county plan on Feb. 4, and briefed the county Environmental Management Commission on the project and process on Feb. 26.

Communications from potential vendors regarding the project must be directed to county Purchasing Agent Jeffrey Dansdill at jdansdill@hawaiicounty.gov.  Responses to Stage 1 of the RFP are due on April 15.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Creates $113,376,400 in Local Economic Benefit

A new National Park Service (NPS) report for 2012 shows that the 1,483,928 visitors to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park spent $113,376,400 in communities near the park. That spending supported 1,353 jobs in the local area.

Halema‘uma‘u Crater in Kīlauea Volcano, framed by ‘ōhi‘a lehua tree. NPS photo/Jay Robinson

Halema‘uma‘u Crater in Kīlauea Volcano, framed by ‘ōhi‘a lehua tree. NPS photo/Jay Robinson

“It’s always exciting to share how much of a positive impact our national and international visitors have on the economic viability of our island community,” said Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando. “On the same note, it’s also worth contemplating what the park means to our Hawai‘i Island residents. That’s difficult to define with a dollar amount,” she said.

Ross Birch, Executive Director for the Big Island Visitors Bureau, acknowledged the park’s impact on the island economy.

“Hawai‘i Island has been on an upward trend in arrivals and spending over the past few years, and a major contributor driving this demand is Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. As the number one attraction for the island, and sometimes the state, it is not a surprise to see the economic impact the park has on our community,” said Birch. “Big Island Visitors Bureau is very grateful to have such an asset and we appreciate the excellent working relationship with Cindy Orlando and her team to perpetuate these great results,” he said.

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by U.S. Geological Survey economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas, Christopher Huber, and Lynne Koontz for the National Park Service. The report shows $14.7 billion of direct spending by 283 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 243,000 jobs nationally, with 201,000 jobs found in these gateway communities, and had a cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy of $26.75 billion.

According to the report, most visitor spending supports jobs in restaurants, grocery and convenience stores (39 percent), hotels, motels and B&Bs (27 percent), and other amusement and recreation (20 percent).

To download the report, visit http://www.nature.nps.gov/socialscience/economics.cfm.

The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state.

To learn more about nation parks in Hawai‘i and how the National Park Service works with Hawai‘i communities to help preserve local history, conserve the environment, and provide outdoor recreation, go to www.nps.gov/hawaii.

Mayor Kenoi Delivers Fiscal Year 2014-15 Budget Proposal

As required by the Hawai‘i County Charter, submitted with this message is the proposed operating budget for the County of Hawai‘i for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015. This balanced budget includes estimated revenues and appropriations of $412,608,475, and includes the operations of eleven of the county’s special funds as well as the general fund.

This FY 2014-2015 budget is $9,403,477 or 2.3 percent larger than the budget in effect when this administration took office in 2008. During the past five years of budget challenges caused by the national and international recession, we have continued to invest in county infrastructure while restricting spending and coping with increased health care and other costs. This budget reflects those efforts to control the cost of government while always maintaining essential police, fire and other core county government services.

After five years of declining revenues, we are finally witnessing a modest, measured recovery in property values.  This will gradually translate into a stronger economy and a brighter budget picture. However, we also face a new challenge in the form of $18.4 million in additional employee expenses in the year ahead. Most of these costs were the result of public worker arbitration decisions and negotiated agreements that significantly increase salaries, wages, social security contributions and retirement obligations.  These new employee and retiree costs reflect the difference between last year’s budget and this year’s budget.

Despite those additional costs, this proposed balanced budget does not require any increase in property taxes.

Population vs. Budget


Investing In Our Communities

From the beginning of this administration, we have crafted budgets that limit spending, but also allow for targeted investment in our communities and our future. Through carefully selected initiatives we created or improved parks and playgrounds, built or rebuilt roads and other public infrastructure, and improved public services. Our primary objective has always been to make the County of Hawai‘i a better place for our families to live and work.

We have used the county’s borrowing power and excellent credit rating to help stimulate the economy and create jobs during a period of low interest rates and favorable bid prices. In Kona, we answered residents’ calls for relief from traffic congestion by advancing projects such as the La‘aloa Avenue Extension, the Ka‘iminani Drive Reconstruction and the Ane Keohokālole Highway, and we will soon begin work on the Māmalahoa Bypass.  In Hilo, we are repairing downtown streets starting with the Kīlauea Avenue Reconstruction, followed by the Kamehameha Avenue Reconstruction project. We will continue in the months ahead with repairs and improvements to Ponahawai and Komohana Streets.
We have partnered with the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, which has emerged as a critical component of our economy. Our university allows our young people to achieve better lives for themselves while providing a skilled workforce to help our island economy to grow and innovate. To help the university expand, we are advancing the Kapi‘olani Street Extension to open up lands for new student housing, additional classroom space, and to alleviate traffic congestion.

We are investing in parks, gyms, and playgrounds across the island where our families can engage in positive activities, and where our coaches can teach our youth respect, discipline, and teamwork. We opened covered play courts at Pana‘ewa Park in Hilo, and built the Kamakoa Nui Park in Waikoloa. We have added seven playgrounds islandwide, and will soon be opening the new Ka‘ū District Gym & Shelter. We renovated popular recreational facilities such as the Waiākea Recreation Center, Edith Kanaka‘ole Stadium, Laupāhoehoe Pool, Kēōkea Beach Park, and Pāhoa Pool. We will soon make the largest investment in recreation in the history of the county by constructing district parks in Pāhoa, Waimea and Kona.

Despite the budget challenges of recent years, we continue to invest in alternative energy and agriculture because we understand those sectors are essential for a sustainable economy. We installed solar arrays on county buildings to reduce oil consumption and utility costs, and will use wind power at Lālāmilo to provide clean energy to supply water to our communities. We are encouraging growth in agriculture by investing in training and support for farmers, and provided 1,739 acres of county-owned lands for ranching and community-based agriculture at the Kapulena Agricultural Park. We joined in a public-private partnership to upgrade the Pa‘auilo Slaughterhouse and provide a new rendering facility to support our grass-fed beef industry.
At the same time, we have preserved funding for public safety and essential core services. We funded additional police officers for the Puna and Ka‘ū communities, and opened the new Makalei Fire Station. We protected funding for nutrition, recreation and other services for seniors, and preserved and expanded programs for our children and youth. We maintained county funding to non-profit organizations serving the people most in need in our communities.

Employee Count

Fewer Employees, Growing Costs

We want to thank our county workers for their efforts during the Great Recession, which was a time when people across our island made sacrifices. Many of our employees accepted furloughs even as overtime was cut and staffing levels in county agencies were reduced because of hiring restrictions. County employees’ workloads increased, but their hard work and dedication allowed us to continue to deliver essential county services and protect public safety.

During these many challenging budget years, the size of the county workforce declined from 2,787 in November 2008, to a total of 2,628 five years later.
Even with that smaller workforce, the new negotiated collective bargaining agreements will significantly increase our employee costs in the year ahead. Wages, salaries and fringe benefits including health care and retirement for all of our employees will increase in all departments by a total of $18.4 million in Fiscal Year 2014-2015, with almost all of that increase attributable to these new agreements.

County of Hawai‘i tax collections in the year ahead will be $6.5 million or 2.9 percent more than the amount of property taxes collected when this administration began in 2008. However, the combined cost of employee wages, fringe benefits and health care expenses has grown by $30.44 million or 16.95 percent during the same period.

OPERATING BUDGET BY FUND

The following table describes the budgeted expenditures for FY 2013-14 and the proposed budget for FY 2014-15 for each fund:

OPERATING BUDGET BY FUND
(Amounts in thousands)
FY13-14 FY14-15 Increase Percent
        FUND Budget Proposed (Decrease) Change
General Fund $300,565 $314,514 $13,949 4.6%
Highway Fund 34,524 35,597 1,073 3.1%
Sewer Fund 9,757 10,743 986 10.1%
Cemetery Fund 10 10 0 0.0%
Bikeway Fund 171 171 0 0.0%
Beautification Fund 183 452 269 147.0%
Vehicle Disposal Fund 2,475 3,655 1,180 47.7%
Solid Waste Fund 25,368 26,515 1,147 4.5%
Golf Course Fund 1,206 1,232 26 2.2%
Geothermal Royalty Fund 1,700 1,700 0 0.0%
Housing Fund 18,060 17,969 (91) -0.5%
Geothermal Asset Fund 300 50 (250) -83.3%
$394,319 $412,608 $18,289 4.6%

REVENUES BY SOURCE

The following table presents a summary of projected FY 2014-15 revenues from various sources and the changes from the current budget:

REVENUES BY SOURCE
(Amounts in thousands)
Increase
(Decrease)
Percent From Percent
FY14-15 of FY13-14 Increase
        Source Amount Total Amount (Decrease)
Real Property Tax $232,400 56.3% $13,000 5.9%
Public Service Company Tax 10,340 2.5% 195 1.9%
Fuel Tax 7,330 1.8% 80 1.1%
Public Utilities Franchise Tax 11,047 2.7% (520) -4.5%
Licenses and Permits 21,968 5.3% 2,227 11.3%
Revenue from Use of Money & Property 1,121 0.3% 215 23.7%
Intergovernmental Revenue 60,082 14.5% (1,067) -1.7%
Charges for Service 22,789 5.5% 34 0.1%
Other Revenues 8,491 2.1% 771 10.4%
Fund Balance Carryover 37,040 9.0% 3,354 9.9%
$412,608 100.0% $18,289 4.6%

REVENUE CHANGES

The major changes in projected revenues are as follows:

Real Property Tax. Real property tax revenues are expected to increase by 5.9%, or $13 million, due to new construction and an increase in taxable values.

Public Utilities Franchise Tax. Decreased public utility revenues are expected to result in a decrease of $520,000, a reduction of 4.5% in franchise tax revenue.

Licenses and Permits. Increases in vehicle registration revenue and vehicle weight tax revenue have contributed to an increase of $2.2 million, or 11.3% in this revenue source.

Intergovernmental Revenue.  Reductions in grant revenues of about $1 million reflect those grants we are aware of at this time.

Fund Balance Carryover. This budget reflects a higher projection of carryover savings ($3.3 million) from the current year operations.

EXPENDITURES BY FUNCTION

The following table presents a summary of projected FY 2014-15 expenditures from various sources and the changes from the current budget:

EXPENDITURES BY FUNCTION
(Amounts in thousands)
Increase
(Decrease)
Percent From Percent
FY14-15 Of FY13-14 Increase
        Function Amount Total Amount (Decrease)
General Government $49,149 11.9% $1,082 2.3%
Public Safety 120,382 29.2% 3,631 3.1%
Highways & Streets 25,550 6.2% 2,088 8.9%
Health, Education & Welfare 25,592 6.2% 88 0.3%
Culture & Recreation 20,756 5.0% 1,144 5.8%
Sanitation & Waste Removal 37,330 9.0% 3,741 11.1%
Debt Service 38,338 9.3% (1,561) -3.9%
Pension & Retirement 39,381 9.5% 4,287 12.2%
Health Fund 35,305 8.6% 1,939 5.8%
Miscellaneous 20,825 5.1% 1,850 9.8%
$412,608 100.0% $18,289 4.6%

EXPENDITURE CHANGES

Increases in salary and wages are reflected in all functional areas of county government.  After several years of furloughs or no wage increases, new wages were negotiated for all bargaining units represented in the county. All salary and wages are reported in each department with the exception of the Unit 11 Fire agreement, which has not yet been approved by the legislature and is estimated in the provision for compensation adjustment account.
Major changes in projected expenditures are as follows:

General Government

  • Planning. Appropriations are increased by $495,000 for work on the General Plan update.

Public Safety

  • Prosecuting Attorney.  Three temporary, grant funded positions have been added for victim services.
  • The majority of other changes in public safety are attributable to salary and wage increases explained above.

Highways & Streets

  • Public Works Road Maintenance.  Approximately $350,000 is appropriated for additional maintenance equipment.
  • Mass Transit Agency. Increased appropriations of approximately $1.3 million are attributable to an increase in the cost of insurance and bus driver contracts.

Culture & Recreation

  • Parks and Recreation Department.  Eight positions to provide maintenance and recreation are being added for new locations that will be serving the public, including Ka‘ū District Gym & Shelter and ‘O‘oma shoreline.
  • The majority of other changes in culture and recreation are attributable to salary and wage increases explained above.

Sanitation & Waste Removal

  • Vehicle Disposal Fund. An increased appropriation of approximately $1 million will provide additional funding for environmental cleanup.
  • Solid Waste Fund. The appropriation for landfill tonnage costs has increased by about $1.7 million because of increased operations costs.

Debt Service

  • Transfer to Debt Service. As the result of refinancing old bond issues, there is a reduction of debt service cost of $1.5 million for the upcoming year.

Pension & Retirement

  • Retirement Benefits. Contributions to the employee retirement system will increase by approximately $4.3 million, or 12.2%, as the result of new salary and wage costs and rate increases established by the state legislature.

Health Fund

  • Health Benefits. Contributions to the state employee health system will increase by
    $1.9 million, which includes an increase of $1 million for future post-employment health benefits.

Miscellaneous

  • Provision for Compensation Adjustment. This provision contains the estimated cost of salary and wages pursuant to contract negotiations that have not been fully approved, and increased by about $2 million.  The $5.8 million appropriation is related to pending increases for Unit 11 Fire employees.

Conclusion

This proposed budget represents a collaborative effort by our departments to address the growing needs of our growing population in a way that is both responsive and fiscally responsible. Our years of careful planning and conservative budgeting have positioned us to invest in our communities while maintaining core services and meeting our obligations to our employees.

The recent, modest gains in property values point to a gradual economic recovery, and we remain cautiously optimistic that the economic and budget outlook will continue to improve. We believe our efforts to promote renewable energy, agriculture and higher education are an investment in the future of our island. We will continue to invest in recreational projects to support our youth and families and to protect public safety, and we ask for your support in these efforts.

We look forward to working closely with the County Council in the months ahead to address our community’s new and continuing demands for public services while also maintaining a balanced and responsible budget.

Aloha,

William P. Kenoi

Governor Abercrombie Offices Releases Healthcare Transformation Plan

After a rigorous six-month planning process made possible by a federal grant from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI), the state today announced the release of its healthcare transformation plan. Under CMMI’s State Innovation Model (SIM) initiative, Beth Giesting, the state’s healthcare transformation coordinator, convened more than 100 stakeholders from across the state to design Hawaii’s roadmap to achieve the “Triple Aim” of better care, better health and lower costs.

Office of the Governor Releases Healthcare Transformation Plan

Office of the Governor Releases Healthcare Transformation Plan

“Transforming our state’s healthcare system is a high priority of my administration, and under the leadership of Beth Giesting, we’ve made substantial progress since her appointment two years ago,” Gov. Neil Abercrombie said. “This healthcare transformation plan outlines clear, tangible steps we can take to improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of health care in Hawaii.”

“The resources that accompanied the SIM planning grant came at just the right time to allow us to take our efforts to the next level,” added Giesting. “We firmly believe that the priorities outlined in our plan will improve the quality of care and outcomes for all residents, while addressing the long-term fiscal sustainability of our healthcare system. In addition, it will bring greater equity by reducing geographic and cultural barriers to care.”

As part of its roadmap for transformation, the state’s plan identifies six essential catalysts for transformation:

  1. Primary Care Practice Redesign: Enrolling at least 80 percent of Hawaii residents in a patient-centered medical home by 2017 and exploring strategies to integrate behavioral health services into the primary care setting
  2. Care Coordination: Implementing programs to help high-risk/high-need individuals receive the services they need in part by establishing Medicaid Health Homes and Community Care Networks
  3. Payment Reform: Transitioning all payers to value-based purchasing by aligning reimbursement strategies
  4. Health Information Technology: Improving connectivity and capability across the healthcare ecosystem by accelerating adoption of electronic health records and increasing utilization of health information exchange
  5. Workforce Development: Expanding capacity for team-based care, addressing workforce shortages and improving cultural competency of providers
  6. Policy Strategies and Levers: Aligning state resources to drive policy changes, including the creation of a permanent transformation structure within state government

The plan is now available in its entirety for review at: www.hawaiihealthcareproject.org

In addition to Hawaii, 15 other states were announced as awardees of the SIM planning grant. Each state had six months to design and submit its own healthcare transformation plan, which will now be eligible for anticipated implementation awards later this year. CMMI expects to issue up to five such awards to the states to implement their plans, with each award valued between $20 and $60 million.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Announces the Creation of Agency’s First-Ever Office of Digital Engagement

The U.S. Department of Commerce announced today the creation of the agency’s first-ever Office of Digital Engagement. This new office – housed within the Office of Public Affairs – serves as the frontline for digital communication with consumers, businesses, and other key Department stakeholders.

Commerce Digital Engagement

“I am proud to announce the launch of the first-ever Office of Digital Engagement within the Department of Commerce. The Office of Digital Engagement is an important component of our ‘Open for Business Agenda’ and will help us engage in a two-way, 21st Century dialogue with America’s business community,” said U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. “By using the power of digital media, the Department of Commerce and our bureaus are working together to ensure that American businesses have access to more agency information and resources that can help them grow and hire.”

To further amplify the “Open for Business Agenda” and the priorities of the Department of Commerce, Secretary Pritzker has used LinkedIn, Vine, Youtube and other platforms and hosted a number of digital events including Twitter and Facebook chats that attracted interest from a wide spectrum of stakeholders, including small business owners, exporters and venture capitalists. The Office of Digital Engagement also launched Secretary Pritzker’s Instagram account last month, making her the first-ever Cabinet official to have an Instagram account.

The Office of Digital Engagement is directed by Director of Digital Strategy, Mike Kruger, and Deputy Director, Rand Ruggieri.  The office is part of the Department of Commerce Office of Public Affairs, run by former technology communications executive Jim Hock.  The team also includes Quintin Haynes in the Office of the Secretary and a Digital Engagement Council made up of representatives from the following Commerce bureaus:

•             Ryan Poole, Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA)

•             Lisa Wolfisch, U.S. Census Bureau

•             Chris Higginbotham, International Trade Administration (ITA)

•             Tami Holzman, Economic Development Administration (EDA)

•             Lucas Hitt, Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA)

•             Alicia Sowah, Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA)

•             Mark Esser, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

•             David Miller, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

•             Juliana Gruenwald, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)

•             Paul Rosenthal, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)

Follow Secretary Pritzker on:

•             Twitter – www.twitter.com/PennyPritzker (@pennypritzker)

•             Instagram – www.instagram.com/PennyPritzker

Find out more about the Department of Commerce at:

•             www.commerce.gov/blog

•             www.twitter.com/CommerceGov

•             http://www.linkedin.com/company/u.s.-department-of-commerce

•             https://www.facebook.com/Commercegov

•             https://www.youtube.com/user/CommerceNews

Senator Malama Solomon on the Hawaii Business News “Geothermal Article”

Senator Malama Solomon responded to the following Hawaii Business News article:

Click to read article

Click to read article

Your report on geothermal energy (HB November 2013, “Geothermal is a Red-Hot Topic”) failed to make some very important points about why geothermal would improve the quality of life for all of us in Hawaii.

• Geothermal is used worldwide and can be applied to Hawaii. According to the state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources, there are several regions worldwide with geothermal and geologic conditions very similar to Hawaii, such as Iceland and New Zealand. Both nations benefit from electrical rates of up to 12 cents per kilowatt hour, compared to Hawaii’s average of 32 cents/kwh. DLNR also points out that these two countries, plus Japan and Indonesia, have seen decades of safe and economical use of geothermal energy.

• Safeguards are already in place. “The State of Hawaii has developed a thorough series of procedures to review, regulate and oversee the development of geothermal resources,” says DLNR Chair William Aila. “This includes the drilling of all geothermal wells, the protection of underground sources of drinking water, safe well construction techniques, and seismic monitoring.”

Also, geothermal development projects are required by Chapter 343, Hawaii Revised Statutes, to develop an Environmental Impact Statement, which includes public disclosure of potential impacts and proposed mitigations measures that are subject to public hearings and a public comment period before any project can proceed forward. “These processes are already in place ensure the protection of the environment, natural and cultural resources, and the public’s health and safety,” Alia says.

• Geothermal has Hawaiian support. “Hawaiians have supported and continue to support geothermal development on Hawaii Island,” says Mililani Trask of the Innovations Development Group. She points out geothermal development has received support by the largest Hawaiian organization, the Hawaiian Civic Clubs, Hawaiian energy producers and land owners, and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, who has also invested in a Hawaiian company seeking to develop the resource on Hawaii Island.

We have a great opportunity to responsibly develop geothermal to provide clean, renewable and firm power to our homes and businesses at a lower cost.

Sen. Malama Solomon

Senate District 4 (Hilo, Hāmākua, Waimea, Kohala, Waikoloa and Kona)

Grassroot Institute Issue Brief Looks at the Minimum Wage Debate

A recent Issue Brief from the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii considers the effects of an increase in the minimum wage, concluding that the raise in the minimum wage currently before the Hawaii Legislature will not advance the goal of improving the plight of Hawaii’s working poor.

Click to read brief

Click to read brief

The report, entitled Four Things You Should Know About the Minimum Wage Debate in Hawaii, identifies four key areas of concern that are at odds with the objectives of the legislation. They are:

  • Raising the minimum wage will benefit less than 4%of low-income working families.
  • The current proposed minimum wage raise increases the costs of low-skilled labor by 39%.
  • Raising the minimum wage will not lift working families out of poverty.
  • Raising the minimum wage is expected to reduce teenage employment.

Though the intent of a minimum wage increase is to lift Hawaii’s working families out of poverty, the brief concludes that such legislation will do little to achieve this objective while placing a substantial burden on Hawaii’s small businesses and employers. In effect, states the brief author, “[a]n increase in the minimum wage would accomplish no more than to increase benefits for a handful of low-income working families at the expense of teenage workers and small business owners. The one thing that the minimum wage proposal does accomplish, however, is to effectively divert the political narrative away from the real causes of poverty and inequality in Hawaii.”

“The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii continues to advocate for free market solutions to our state’s economic problems,” states Dr. Keli’i Akina, President of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. “Unfortunately, the proposed raise in the minimum wage is nothing more than a band-aid solution that will burden Hawaii’s businesses without effectively helping our state’s working families. What we really need is a reduction in the obstacles that the state places on business and entrepreneurship in Hawaii, as a vibrant and growing economy is the best way to improve the situation of low-wage workers.”

You can read or download this brief in its entirety at: http://new.grassrootinstitute.org/2014/02/four-things-you-should-know-about-the-minimum-wage-debate-in-hawaii/.

2014 Focus Luncheon with Mayor Kenoi

Mayor Billy Kenoi and select cabinet members tackle current Hawai`i County issues at the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce 2014 Focus Luncheon 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27 at the Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel.

Mayor Kenoi at the APEC Conference

Mayor Kenoi at the APEC Conference

Sponsored by the Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union, the annual luncheon offers a unique opportunity for the local community to meet with County Department representatives in a casual setting. Attendees will have the opportunity to have lunch with a specific department as well as pose questions to the Mayor and other Cabinet heads. Issues to be included in the discussion include the possible increase of the GET via a county surcharge; the County’s solid waste management plan; the controversial GMO bill; and, the quest to reopen the Kona International Airport international arrivals facility.

Cost for the luncheon is $45 for Chamber and Rotary members, $55 for non-members. No walk-ins allowed. For more information and/or to register, visit kona-kohala.com or call the Chamber office at 808-329-1758.

THE KONA-KOHALA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE provides leadership and advocacy for a successful business environment in West Hawai‘i. The result of KKCC’s work is a community of choice as reflected in our quality of life, business and individual opportunity and manifest respect for our culture and our natural resources. For info, 329-1758 or visit www.kona-kohala.com.

 

Bruno Mars Ticket Fiasco Has Lawmaker Introduce Resolution to Assist Local Residents in the Future

If you’re a loyal fan standing in line to purchase a coveted concert ticket, and plan to attend that concert, you should be able to have more than six percent of a chance to purchase that ticket, said Senate President Donna Mercado Kim. The lawmaker has introduced a resolution urging concert and entertainment venues to require only in-person ticket sales for the first 48 hours.

Capital Logo

The resolution was triggered by the disappointment of local residents after the quick sale – three concerts sold out in 2-hours – of tickets for local boy Bruno Mars’ Hawaii shows in April. It was later announced that people from the mainland and Canada snagged 42 percent of the 17,000 tickets. Even more frustrating was for those who stood in the long lines at the Blaisdell box office, only six percent of tickets were bought there. It’s also been reported that scalpers who purchased tickets in bulk are selling them for exorbitant prices. Kim is hoping to change this for concertgoers so that those who will actually go to a performance are able to purchase tickets from the original venue at the actual ticket price, and not from a secondary market at inflated prices.

“Despite waiting in line for hours, many fans were unable to purchase tickets to the upcoming Bruno Mars concert at the Blaisdell Center,” said Kim. “Anyone who takes the time to show up in person should have the opportunity to purchase tickets for at least the first two days before opening up to online sales. It’s unfortunate that out-of-state ticket brokers and scalpers will resell these concert tickets back to local residents for an enormous profit.”

The resolution names and urges the following entities to set purchasing terms: Hawaii Community Development Authority, Stadium Authority, Department of Enterprise Services of the City and County of Honolulu, Board of Regents, President of the University of Hawaii and Chancellor of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

These entities hold concerts at venues such as Kakaako Park, Aloha Stadium, the Neil S. Blaisdell Center, Waikiki Shell, University of Hawaii Stan Sheriff Center and the Hawaii Convention Center.

“Our residents should enjoy a night of entertainment without having to pay inflated prices,” said Kim.