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First Hawaii Electric Light Rate Increase in 6 years Approved

Interim 3.4% increase supports continued renewable energy progress

Hilo, Hawaii, Aug. 22, 2017 – The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has issued an interim decision approving Hawaii Electric Light Company’s first base-rate increase in more than six years.

The approved interim rate will increase the typical Hawaii Island monthly residential bill for 500 kilowatt hours by $4.98. Over the last 12 months, the average monthly residential bill has been $162.58. The 3.4 percent increase – $9.9 million in annual revenue – will help pay for capital improvements including grid upgrades and extensive vegetation management work that is credited with reducing outages and their duration during storms.

Since 2014, Hawaii Electric Light has spent more than $14 million on tree trimming and removal, concentrating on areas where non-native albizia trees threaten utility equipment and highways.

Today’s interim decision is consistent with a settlement reached last month between Hawaii Electric Light and the Hawaii Division of Consumer Advocacy. The settlement reduced by nearly half the original request for a 6.5 percent increase in revenue.

The effective date of the new rate will be determined by the commission.

An interim decision is one step in the ratemaking process. The PUC will continue to review the request and will later issue a final decision. If a lower final amount is approved, the difference will be refunded to customers with interest. If a higher amount is approved, the increase will only be applied going forward from the time it is approved, not retroactively.

Hawaii Electric Light leads the state in the use of renewable resources to generate electricity, relying on a diverse portfolio of wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower. Since 2010, the company has increased the use of renewables from 35 percent to 57 percent as of June 2017.

There are several programs available that provide financial assistance for those who are in need, including the Hawaii Low Income Home Energy Assistance program (LIHEAP), Ohana Energy Gift Program, and the Special Medical Needs Program. The Time-of-Use program, which offers lower rates during the daytime hours, can help you save money if you’re flexible on when you use energy. Go to www.hawaiielectriclight.com for more information.

Editors note – Hawaii as a state has always been one of the most expensive states for electricity:

Senator Lorraine Inouye’s Response to Questions on Special Session on Honolulu Rapid Transit System

 

Senator Lorraine Inouye

Aloha Damon,

Thank you for your email.

Although there are plans to go into Special Session, we have not gotten official word from the Leadership of both Houses, specifically, the President of the State Senate and the Speaker of the House, about whether we will convene and the dates. The last week in August has been targeted but no word as of today.

Hence, there Is no draft bill to reference, however there is a federal deadline such that your questions are timely and relevant and I am happy to respond to your questions:

Question 1: Will you vote YES or NO on a 1% STATEWIDE increase to the Transient Accommodations Tax (9.25% to 10.25%) to help fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System in the upcoming legislative special session?

My answer is absolutely NO. The rail project is on O’ahu, and the initial financial plan the Legislature approved 10 years ago was to allow the City and County of Honolulu to increase the GET by ½% specifically for the purposes of building an elevated rail system.

Ten years ago, as Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, I was one of the Senate negotiators and I supported the original bill for a 1% increase. However, during the course of the hearings, the Oahu Senators and State House of Representatives did not support it and ended up with the final ½%. Had we stayed with the 1%, we would not be in this position today.

As my District 4 constituents know, there is now a proposal under consideration to have the neighbor islands assist with rescuing Oahu on their shortfall by using – or more accurately, absconding – some of the Transient Accommodation Tax generated by Hawaii Island hotels. I absolutely cannot support this.

I have been in my district the last several days and all of those we have spoken to, and also many emails that I’ve received are not in support of paying into the rail shortfall. I have also circulated a poll and it is resoundingly opposed to this. My constituents have shared widely differing reasons for opposing use of neighbor island-generated TAT for rail on Oahu, and I agree with many of their reasons. Bottom line: it is not fair or equitable. The people of Hawaii County are already shouldering a recent increase in taxes – both property and fuel taxes. I will support my constituents first and foremost and those outside of my district on Hawaii Island and oppose such a proposal.

Question 2: Would you support a 6 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% from 2027 to 2034 if this will help fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE?

My answer is YES. For the sake of my constituents, I must reiterate that this 0.5% GET Surcharge would apply only to Oahu, not the neighbor islands. I would support it but must also note that this proposed 6-year extension would not fully fund the shortfall. My preference is to support the City and County of Honolulu’s and the rail authority’s request to extend the Surcharge for an additional 10 years – to cover the shortfall – thereby not touching the Transient Accommodations Tax. I must add however, that even a 10-year GET Surcharge extension for Oahu is problematic because it would primarily be used for building the rail.
What about operational and maintenance costs going forward? They are not in the equation. This is why the County’s original request was to extend the GET Surcharge in perpetuity. Bottom line, this option, while it would address federal government funding requirements in the short term, it really amounts to kicking the can down the road for the next generation to resolve. This is sad.

Question 3: Would you support an increase of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% to 0.62% and a 3 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge from 2028 to 2030 if this will fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE?

My answer is YES. I have shared a recommendation to allow the City and County of Honolulu the option to raise an additional 1% with Legislative leadership. I also believe such an increase may have to go for several more years as a 2-year extension may not fully fund the shortfall.

Thank you, Damon, for helping the people of Hawaii, especially neighbor islanders, understand what’s at stake and have their voices heard.

Sincerely, Lorraine R. Inouye
Senator, District 4 (Hawai’i Island – North Hilo-Hamakua-Waimea-Kohala-Waikoloa-North Kona)

Senator Russell Ruderman’s Response to Questions on Special Session on Honolulu Rapid Transit System

Sen. Ruderman

Editors Note:  I only received one e-mail and got a follow-up later this afternoon.  The following post has been edited to reflect that miscommunication:

Sorry, Damon, my mistake. This was supposed to be first answer.

Questions:

1. Will you vote YES or NO on a 1% STATEWIDE increase to the Transient Accommodations Tax (9.25% to 10.25%) to help fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System in the upcoming legislative special session?

Answer:

I will vote “NO” if any funds from outer islands are used for rail.

If new Big Island TAT funds all go to Big Island, then I will consider it.

2. Would you support a 6 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% from 2027 to 2034 if this will help fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE? YES OR NO?

YES,
This question is not clear on the outer island tax increase issue. I will vote “NO” if any funds from outer islands are used for rail.( GE or TAT)

3. Would you support an increase of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% to 0.62% and a 3 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge from 2028 to 2030 if this will fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE? YES or NO

YES

This question is not clear on the outer island tax increase issue. I will vote “NO” if any funds from outer islands are used for rail. ( GE or TAT)

I would support either GET extension if it funds rail w/o increasing TAT, or increasing ANY tax on outer islands.

Mahalo,
Russell

While I agree rail ought to be finished, there are two bigger concerns here for me. First, the project has been grossly mismanaged, and throwing more money at such a project without fixing the mismanagement is rarely a good idea.

Secondly here in Puna our only road in and out is the deadliest highway and the state and it’s the fastest growing district in the state. So I cannot agree to subsidizing Oahu’s project while our urgent needs go unmet.


Aloha Sen. Ruderman,

Mahalo for representing the Big Island in legislative issues. I have some questions for you folks and hope you will respond to me by Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017
Questions:
1. Will you vote YES or NO on a 1% STATEWIDE increase to the Transient Accommodations Tax (9.25% to 10.25%) to help fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System in the upcoming legislative special session?
If your answer is YES, please explain why? If your answer is NO, please explain why?
2. Would you support a 6 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% from 2027 to 2034 if this will help fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE?
YES or NO
3. Would you support an increase of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% to 0.62% and a 3 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge from 2028 to 2030 if this will fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE?
YES or NO
Thank you for your participation in this quick and important decision that will affect all of us on this island.

Representative Cindy Evans’s Response to Questions on Special Session on Honolulu Rapid Transit System

Rep. Cindy Evans

Aloha Damon,
I understand you wish to get a pulse before special session.

At this time I will pass on answering your questions. There are currently too many options available and until I see the bill, I feel the questions are unrealistic.

Best Regards,

Cindy Evans


Aloha Rep. Evans

Mahalo for representing the Big Island in legislative issues. I have some questions for you folks and hope you will respond to me by Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

Questions:
1. Will you vote YES or NO on a 1% STATEWIDE increase to the Transient Accommodations Tax (9.25% to 10.25%) to help fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System in the upcoming legislative special session?
If your answer is YES, please explain why? If your answer is NO, please explain why?
2. Would you support a 6 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% from 2027 to 2034 if this will help fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE?
YES or NO
3. Would you support an increase of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% to 0.62% and a 3 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge from 2028 to 2030 if this will fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE?
YES or NO

Thank you for your participation in this quick and important decision that will affect all of us on this island.

Senator Kai Kahele’s Response to Questions on Special Session on Honolulu Rapid Transit System

Senator Kai Kahele

Aloha Damon and mahalo for your email. Although we (the Senate) have not seen a bill yet there has been speculation to what a bill may look like to help fund the Honolulu Rail Project shortfall, however I can provide a response to your questions based on the knowledge I have so far.

Question #1: Answer: NO. I do not support increasing the TAT Statewide to fund the rail project. Front loading the rail project with money from a TAT statewide increase is bad policy for the State. Leisure tourism is our number one industry and is what drives GE revenues. Raising the TAT hotel tax statewide has the potential to hurt our tourism industry. In addition, I have heard from many of my constituents in Hilo and they are opposed to raising the TAT hotel tax statewide which would make on island and off island travel for hard working Hawaiʻi Island families, youth sports teams and church groups that much more expensive when they need to stay in our island hotels. If it makes Hawaiʻi Island hotels more expensive for local families, to fund the rail project on Oahu, I cannot support that.

Questions #2: Answer: YES. I do support the extension of the GE surcharge on Oahu to fund the rail project. The GE surcharge on Oahu has been paid and collected by Oahu residents since 2007 and is set to expire in 2027. An extension of this broad based tax, which the voters of Oahu voted for seems reasonable to me. It will also not impact the neighbor islands or the tourism industry. I do support a 6 year extension of the surcharge to complete the rail project.

Questions #3: Answer: YES. If front loading the rail project to decrease total cost and interest paid was what the voters and residents of Oahu wanted than I would support that. The Hawaiʻi GE tax is inherently a regressive tax and has the potential to affect lower income individuals and families which we would need to weigh appropriately. However, if this proposal could decrease the amount of years for the GE extension, which also helps lower income families, and ends up costing less in total interest paid, the legislature should consider it. Again, I would like to see what the residents of Oahu think about this proposal, maybe an informal poll could be taken.

Continue reading

Commentary – City Rail Audit Won’t Look for Fraud?

Dear Damon,

This week, the Honolulu City Council Budget Committee approved a widely supported resolution to conduct an “economy and efficiency” audit of the city’s over-budget and behind-schedule rail project, but it didn’t go far enough.

That’s because, if approved by the Council as a whole, it would not be looking for fraud — this despite the fact that City Auditor Edwin Young told the committee “the red flags were there” when he was conducting his own very critical performance audit of the project just last year.

As amended, Resolution 17-199 would direct Young’s office to investigate the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation’s capital finances, which amount to at least $8 billion. This would be a big improvement over Young’s earlier audit, which looked only at HART’s operational finances of about $18 million annually.

During the hearing, Joe Kent, Grassroot Institute vice president of research, congratulated the committee for considering Councilmember Trevor Ozawa’s resolution to investigate the rail project, but expressed concern about its amended version.

“The proposed new language seems to suggest there is no desire to look into whether there has been any illegal activity in the rail construction process,” he said.

After Kent’s comments, Budget Committee members asked Young if any fraud had been found while he was conducting last year’s performance audit.

He responded: “We found that the internal controls were so weak that if fraud, waste or abuse were to occur, HART and (others) would not have detected it, could not prevent it, and could not have taken corrective action, if it had occurred.”

Pressed further, the city auditor said he would be willing to recommend a forensic audit seeking fraud, waste and abuse if the former HART executive director, Dan Grabauskas, were still in charge. However, the current proposed audit, which does not seek out fraud or abuse, would be sufficient for the current leadership.

But this misses the point.

The public deserves to know about fraud, whether it happened now or in the past. The only way to know for sure if Hawaii taxpayers have been getting true and honest returns for their hard-earned tax dollars is to conduct a full forensic audit of the rail project.

All the better if an entity independent of the city were hired to provide the staff and expertise to conduct such an audit — in a reliable, trustworthy and timely manner.

Such an audit likely would require separate funding; perhaps the $250,000 allocated by HART for “special audit services” would be a good place to start.

In any case, Hawaii leaders should not shy away from seeking out illegal or abusive activities in the Honolulu rail project. And only a “deep dive” forensic audit can accomplish that goal. Anything less is playacting.

E hana kakou (Let’s work together!),

Keli’i Akina, Ph.D.
President/CEO Grassroots Institute of Hawaii

Mayor Kim’s Testimony Re: Special Session 2017 – Rail Tax Surcharge

August 11, 2017
Special Session 2017 – Rail Tax Surcharge

Dear Senator Lorraine Inouye, Senator Clarence Nishihara, Senator Donovan Dela Cruz, Representative Henry Aquino, Representative Sylvia Luke, and Committee Members:

We understand that the upcoming Special Session will be considering many different proposals on how to help the City and County of Honolulu Address the funding of their rail system. While we understand that this is not an easy decision, we want to ensure that the legislatures makes their decision based on fairness. We understand that some of the options being considered include increasing GET and TAT for the entire state with all the proceeds going to rail.

These increased taxes would be collected on all islands, even though the rail system is only located on Oahu. That does not seem fair to tax those that don’t even have access to the rail system. We do support the extension of the GET surcharge for Oahu. That seems to be the fairest method to ensure that those most likely to benefit from the system will pay for the system.

In addition, the TAT cap for the counties was not restored to $103 million as in previous years. This reduced our TAT revenue by $1.86 million. This is more than the entire budget for our Civil Defense department. Without these funds, a significant increase in real property taxes for our citizens was necessary. The same citizens that you also represent. We cannot burden our citizens any more for something that will not benefit them.

Taxing all for the benefit of one is not fair. All islands could see an increase in the TAT and GET but only one will benefit. We all will be seeing less TAT in our budgets. We respectfully request that you whatever you can to provide the counties with their fair share of TAT and find another way to fund the rail system, such as continuing the additional GET for Oahu.

We appreciate your consideration as we all attempt to best serve our joint constituents, the people of Hawai’i.

Respectfully,

Harry Kim
Mayor

Hawaii’s Economy Continues to Grow at a Slower Pace

The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) released its third quarter 2017 Statistical and Economic Report, which shows Hawaii’s economy continues positive growth, but at a slower pace this year and the next few years.

After two years of consecutive growth above 2 percent, Hawaii’s economy, as measured by the real (inflation adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP), grew by 0.9 percent during the first quarter of 2017, according to data released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. This is the lowest quarterly growth rate since the first quarter of 2015.

“Hawaii’s economic fundamentals are still positive, although growth has slowed down,” said DBEDT Director Luis P. Salaveria. “We have the second lowest unemployment rate in the nation during the first half of 2017, and our visitor industry is performing well, with 4.6 million visitor arrivals during the first half of the year.”

There were 7,200 non-agriculture payroll jobs added during the first half of 2017, 78 percent of them were added by tourism-related industries such as accommodation, food services, retail trade, and recreation.

Labor force and employment created new record high levels during the first half year of 2017 and non-farm payroll jobs showed a historical best first 6 months. Hawaii’s unemployment rate (not seasonally adjusted) was the second lowest among all the states in the nation. Visitor arrivals increased 4.3 percent and visitor expenditures jumped 8.7 percent during the first half of the year.

However, the economic growth is not evenly allocated to all the industries. There are still a few industries that lost jobs during the first half of 2017. Construction lost 500 jobs, manufacturing and health care each lost 400 jobs, and the wholesale trade lost 300 jobs.

The job loss in construction is mainly due to the decrease in the value of building permits issued during the first half of 2016, which usually shows about one year from the time building permits are issued and the start of construction. During the first half of 2016, total value of private building permits decreased by 29.6 percent from the same period in 2015, and that decrease is reflected in the actual construction activities in the first half of this year.

After five years of continuous job growth, the manufacturing industry started to lose jobs since the fourth quarter of 2016, and during the first half of 2017, this industry lost 2.9 percent of its jobs from the same time a year ago. Compared with the job count from 1990 in the manufacturing industry, the first half of 2017 job count was 66 percent of what it was then.

Wholesale trade is another industry struggling during this business cycle. In its peak year of 2008, this industry had 18,750 payroll jobs. During the first half of 2017, this industry averaged 17,400 jobs. Wholesale trade is one of the industries that has not recovered to its pre-recession job level.

The private health care and social assistance sector had been continuously adding jobs for the last three decades, however, this sector started to lose jobs since the first quarter of this year. Though the magnitude is small, this is the first showing of a decrease in these areas since 1996.

As an indicator of the unparalleled growth across the industries, initial unemployment claims increased by 1.7 percent during the first seven months of 2017.

The good news in the construction industry is that the value of private building permits increased 15.6 percent during the first half of 2017. The value of residential permits increased 32.8 percent, commercial and industrial permit value increased 120.1 percent, and value of additions and alterations decreased by 14.2 percent. The increase in building permit value will be reflected in construction activities next year.

The most recent economic forecast for the U.S. and the world indicates that most of the economies of the world, especially those where our visitors are coming from, will experience continued economic growth in 2017 and 2018. The U.S. economy is expected to grow by 2.2 percent in 2017 and 2.4 percent in 2018, both are higher than the growth rate of 2016.

DBEDT revised the visitor industry forecast upwards with visitor arrivals now growing at 3.2 percent for 2017, 1.4 percent for 2018 and 1.5 percent for 2019 and 2020. Visitor expenditures will be at 6.5 percent for 2017, 2.2 percent for 2018, and 3.6 percent for 2019 and 2020.

DBEDT revised its projection on Hawaii’s economic growth downward for 2017, from 1.9 percent projected in the previous quarter to 1.4 percent, and between 1.3 percent to 1.5 percent between 2018 and 2020.

“The increase in visitor spending is mainly due to the price increase. For example, during the first half of 2017, hotel room rates increased 6.0 percent. Apparel prices increased 5.8 percent, and gasoline prices increase 20.4 percent. Visitors spent much of their money on these items while visiting Hawaii,” said Chief State Economist Dr. Eugene Tian. “When calculating the economic growth, the price effect is removed, so you end up seeing the visitor industry booming, while economic growth is slowing down. The real growth in the tourism industry is not large enough to offset the downturn of the few industries.”

DBEDT kept its projection on non-farm payroll job count unchanged at 1.0 percent in 2017 and falling to 0.8 percent in 2020. The unemployment rate projection is also kept unchanged at 2.9 percent in 2017 and will gradually increase to 3.4 percent by 2020.

DBEDT revised the nominal personal income growth rates downward from the previous quarter forecast in the neighborhood of 3.3 and 3.5 percent. Real personal income projections were also revised downward to below 2 percent for the next few years.

DBEDT kept its projections on the Honolulu consumer inflation rates unchanged from the forecast in the previous quarter at 2.5 percent for 2017, and 2.3 percent for the outer years. Consumer inflation rate for Honolulu during the first half of 2017 was 2.5 percent.

The DBEDT Quarterly Statistical and Economic Report contains more than 120 tables of the most recent quarterly data on Hawaii’s economy as well as narrative explanations of the trends in these data.

The full report is available at: dbedt.hawaii.gov/economic/qser/.

Guest Commentary – Audit the Honolulu Rail Project

Dear Damon,

When the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii first kicked off our “Audit the Rail” campaign, we had a feeling the idea would catch on.

Over the summer, we’ve seen respected voices across the state join the chorus.

At the outset, we did some digging and uncovered the fact that several HART board members supported a forensic audit of the rail.

Following that, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser published a story echoing our call to audit the rail explicitly for fraud, waste and abuse.

Then, Honolulu Councilmember Trevor Ozawa introduced a resolution to perform a special audit of the rail. Since then, at least four other Honolulu Council members have endorsed an audit.

And now, state legislators are floating the idea of auditing the rail, according to a presentation leaked to the press last week.

As influential voices across the state join the Grassroot Institute’s call to audit the rail, we intend to continue making a reasoned case for a full forensic audit.

If you have not yet signed our petition, please do so at AuditTheRail.com and share this e-mail with your friends.

Mahalo for helping this idea to catch on.

E Hana Kakou (Let’s work together!),

Keli’i Akina, Ph.D.
President/CEO Grassroots Institute of Hawaii

Guest Commentary – Hawaii Rail Fiasco… What They Don’t Want You to Know

You posted (on Facebook) an interesting article on Civil Beat in regards to the Rail Project: Lawmakers Consider Having Neighbor Islands Help Pay for Oahu’s Troubled Rail Project

What you and most fail to realize is that our House representatives on this island already voted YES to have the neighbor islands pay for rail, including our island and NO ONE called them out or held them accountable.

SB1183 is what deadlocked at the end of session because the House and Senate disagreed on the funding mechanism for the rail project.

This is the link to the HOUSE amendment to the bill that passed the House and was voted on by our representatives.

http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/session2017/bills/SB1183_HCD2_.htm

The bottom line:

They voted for a increase to the TAT of 10.25% (an increase of 1%) statewide, with 100% of the proceeds going to rail and they voted to CAP the TAT distribution to the counties at $103 million to 2028.

How does the $103 million cap affect Hawaii County? Hawaii County gets 18.6% of that cap which is approximately $18 million. However, HI County should be getting almost $40 million from the TAT if it was, prior to 2009, apportioned fairly through a percentage based allocation. The State capped the Counties during the recession and has never restored it to a percentage based amount. Effectively, HI County is getting robbed every year of its fair share of TAT by the State, $22 million could pay for ALLOT of stuff on our island, busses etc..

Who voted for that? 100% of HI Islands House membership, every single one.

Now, we are going back into special session and the House has the same game plan, increase TAT statewide and this time, even worse, cap the Counties at $93 million, instead of $103 million.

If their is not enough public awareness on our island or pressure from their constituents, they will vote the same way. They don’t want anyone to know what I just shared with you, but it is all public information, just no one caught it.

But now you know…

A Concerned Citizen

Estate Planning 101 Seminar

Planning today for tomorrow can be confusing sometimes, so Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union (HCFCU) is inviting members and residents to a free Estate Planning 101 seminar to help explain estate planning basics. Held onSaturday, August 12, 9:30 A.M. – 11:30 A.M. at the Kohala Intergenerational Center in Kohala, HI, this important discussion is presented by John Roth, Attorney and Program Director of the Hawaii Trust & Estate Counsel. “This seminar is so informative. John answers so many questions and covers so much material that the attendees leave with actionable next steps,” said Tricia Buskirk, Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union President/CEO.
John Roth will discuss such key topics as:

  • Learning the process of estate planning
  • Preparing for the initial consultation
  • Determining when it’s time to review/revise an existing plan
  • Exploring common hypothetical scenarios
  • Ensuring that your wishes are carried out “to the letter” after you have passed on and other relevant topics

Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union is a not-for-profit credit union owned by it’s over 39,000 member/owners with branches in Honokaa, Kailua-Kona, Kaloko, Kealakekua and Kohala. In addition to complete checking and savings services, the credit union offers credit cards, auto, mortgage, construction, small business, educational and personal loans; online and mobile banking; investment services; youth programs and supports numerous Hawaii Island programs and events. Membership in Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union is open to all Hawaii Island residents. For more information visit www.hicommfcu.com.

For more information or to register, contact us at 808-930-7700 or marketing@hicommfcu.com. Seating is limited so please RSVP today

Hawaiian Electric Companies Seek to Connect Renewable Energy Developers With Landowners

To help achieve Hawaii’s renewable energy goals, the Hawaiian Electric Companies recently sought out landowners to determine their willingness to host renewable energy projects.

As a result of that effort, Hawaiian Electric has compiled a list of potential sites that could be available to experienced developers of renewable energy projects.

“By reaching out to potential developers and sharing information with them, we are helping landowners and developers get together to streamline the process of developing renewable energy projects. Together, we are all working toward achieving our state’s 100 percent renewable energy goal,” said Shelee Kimura, Hawaiian Electric senior vice president of strategic planning and business development.

Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light will require all developers to engage with communities near proposed renewable energy projects and solicit public input before developers can negotiate a final agreement with the utility. All agreements will require approval of the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission.

Hawaii has the nation’s most ambitious clean energy goal, requiring 100 percent of electricity sales to come from renewable resources by 2045. By December 2016, the companies achieved nearly 26 percent of the state’s renewable energy mandate across the five islands served. Hawaii Island, for example, has the state’s highest level of renewables at 54 percent. With new developer agreements recently approved by regulators, it is expected more than 80 percent of the electricity used by Hawaii Electric Light customers will come from renewable sources by 2020.

The companies are now moving even more assertively to encourage renewable project development while federal tax incentives that can lower prices for customers are available.

To reach 100 percent, Hawaii will need a broad mix of clean resources. Private rooftop solar, energy storage, and electricity-use management (also known as efficiency and demand response) will increasingly be options for individual customers. Grid-scale projects are still essential to complement these choices to provide power reliability and ensure all customers benefit from renewable energy.

The companies have requested Public Utilities Commission approval to start the regulated procurement process and expect soon to issue formal requests for proposals for developers to propose grid-scale projects.

When contacting Hawaiian Electric, developers must sign a non-disclosure agreement and provide information to demonstrate experience and capability in completing renewable projects. For information, go to hawaiianelectric.com/landrfi or email landrfi@hawaiianelectric.com.

Click to access

Hawaii Departments of Health and Human Services to Hold Job Fair Aug. 11 at State Capitol

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) and Department of Human Services (DHS) will co-host a job fair on Friday, Aug. 11, 2017 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Hawaii State Capital chamber level (basement) on the mauka side. Admission is free and open to the public.

The job fair will have informational display tables staffed by employees from various DOH divisions and branches, including Adult Mental Health Division; Hawaii State Hospital and Environmental Resources Office; Child & Adolescent Mental Health Division; Developmental Disabilities Division; Alcohol & Drug Abuse Division; and Office of Health Care Assurance.

Various programs will be representing DHS. Managers and employees from the Benefits, Employment and Support Services Division, Statewide Branch; Social Services Division, Child Welfare Services Branch; Division of Vocational Rehabilitation; and the Hawaii Public Housing Authority will be on site to promote various employment opportunities with their programs.

For those seeking a new job or a career change, DOH is looking for qualified applicants for the following positions:

  • Accountant III
  • Clinical Psychologist 
  • Epidemiological Specialist IV 
  • Hospital Billing Clerk 
  • Human Resources Assistant III & IV 
  • Human Services Professional III, IV and V 
  • Information Technology Band A 
  • Janitor II 
  • Licensed Practical Nurse I and II,
  • Hospital & Mental Health 
  • Mental Health Supervisor II 
  • Occupational Therapist III 
  • Office Assistant II & III 
  • Para-Medical Assistant (Entry Level) 
  • Planner V
  • Program Specialist IV-VI 
  • Psychiatrist III, Inpatient, Outpatient 
  • Public Health Administrative Officer 
  • Registered Nurse III and IV 
  • Research Statistician 
  • Secretary II and III 
  • Social Worker IV

The following are positions available with DHS:

  • Assistant Chief Financial Officer (exempt) 
  • Chief Housing Planner (exempt) 
  • Eligibility Worker I, IV and V 
  • Housing Contract Specialist (exempt) 
  • Housing Compliance and Evaluation Specialist (exempt) 
  • Human Resources Assistant IV 
  • Human Services Professional II and III (Human Services/CWSB-Intake Unit, Shiftwork) 
  • Human Services Professional III and IV (Health and Human Services) 
  • Human Services Professional IV (Intake and Crisis Response Team) 
  • Office Assistant III 
  • Plumber I 
  • Project Engineer (exempt) 
  • Property Management and Maintenance Services Branch Chief (exempt)
  • Property Management Specialist (exempt) 
  • Public Housing Specialist I 
  • Public Housing Supervisor III, IV and V 
  • Social Service Aid III and Social Service Assistant IV 
  • Social Worker III (Human Services/CWSB-Intake Unit, Shiftwork) 
  • Social Worker III and IV (Health and Human Services) 
  • Social Worker IV (Intake and Crisis Response Team) 
  • Stores Clerk II (89-day hire) 
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist III and IV

The purpose of the job fair is to connect job seekers with potential employment opportunities within DOH and DHS—two of the larger state departments in Hawaii that employ 2,700 workers and 2,000 workers, respectively, on every major island.

“We offer a number of rewarding career opportunities in public service,” said Ian Greene, Chief of the DOH Human Resources Office Recruitment and Examination. “If you are a job seeker, the Hawaii Department of Health may be the perfect place for you. The work we do is very challenging and powerful. Every day we make a difference in the lives of the people of Hawaii.”

“Working for DHS gives you the opportunity to make a difference in Hawaii,” said DHS Director Pankaj Bhanot. “Our team touches Hawaii’s children, families and kupuna in ways that make impacts and could change the trajectories of their lives. We hope those with experience in the field and a passion for making a difference will join our team.”

DOH’s mission is to protect and improve the health and environment for all people in Hawaii. DOH employees ensure core public health functions and support programs such as health promotion, disease and injury prevention, disaster preparedness and emergency response, environmental health services, and other areas of public health.

DHS strives to provide timely, efficient and effective programs, services and benefits for the purpose of achieving the outcome of empowering Hawaii’s most vulnerable people; and to
expand their capacity for self-sufficiency, self-determination, independence, healthy choices, quality of life, and personal dignity.

The State of Hawaii offers many benefits to employees, including competitive salaries, career advancement, health and dental insurance, paid vacation and sick leave.

Visit the DOH and DHS websites at: http://health.hawaii.gov/employment/job-opportunities/ and http://humanservices.hawaii.gov/employment-opportunities/ for more information on the employment opportunities currently available with each department.

Applicants are also encouraged to visit the State Recruiting Office’s website at http://dhrd.hawaii.gov/job-seekers/ to learn more about civil service job opportunities that are currently available at other state departments and to complete an online application.

Hawaii Mayor Signs Emergency Proclamation for Homeless Folks – Suspends Some County Laws

Hawaii County Mayor Harry Him signed an emergency proclamation today due to the increasing homeless population in the Kona area of the Big Island of Hawaii:

Mayor Harry Kim

WHEREAS, Chapter 127A Hawaii Revised Statutes, provides for the establishment of County organizations for emergency management and disaster relief with the Mayor having direct responsibility and authority over emergency management within the County.

WHEREAS, Chapter 127A Hawaii Revised Statutes and Chapter 7, Articles 1
and 2 of the Hawaii County Code, establishes a Civil Defense Agency within the
County of Hawaii and prescribes its powers, duties, and responsibilities, and
Section 13- 23 of the Hawaii County Charter empowers the Mayor of the County to declare emergencies; and

WHEREAS, homeless individuals have established an encampment at the
County of Hawaii’s Old Kona Airport Park, District of South Kona, County and State of Hawaii; and

WHEREAS, the homeless individuals at the Old Kona Airport Park were removed from the park grounds; and

WHEREAS, these homeless individuals could be temporarily sheltered at the
grounds of the Hale Kikaha Project located in the District of North Kona County and State of Hawaii; and

WHEREAS, these unsheltered homeless individuals are without access to
adequate bathroom, shower and living facilities; and

WHEREAS, these unsheltered homeless individuals require health and social
services in order to maintain themselves safely and in reasonable health; and

WHEREAS, the lack of secure, safe and sanitary shelter, and adequate health
and social services for these homeless people is endangering the health, safety and welfare of these people and pose a threat to the environment and public health, and demands emergency action to prevent or mitigate suffering, injury, loss, or damage to persons and property; and County of Hawaii is an Equal Opportunity Provider and Employer

WHEREAS, pursuant to section 127A- 13( b)( 1) Hawaii Revised Statutes the
Mayor has the authority to relieve hardships and inequities, or obstructions to public health, safety or welfare found by the Mayor to exist in the laws of the County and to result from the operation of federal programs or measures taken under Chapter 127A Hawai’ i Revised Statutes, by suspending the county laws, in whole or in part, or by alleviating the provisions of county laws on such terms and conditions the Mayor may impose; and

WHEREAS, pursuant to section 127A- 13( b)( 2) Hawai’ i Revised Statutes the
Mayor has the authority to suspend any county law that impedes or tends to impede or to be detrimental to the expeditious and efficient execution of, or to conflict with emergency functions, including the laws by which Chapter 127A Hawai’ i Revised Statutes, specifically are made applicable to emergency personnel; and

WHEREAS, due to the possibility of threat to the environment and public health to residents of the District of South and North Kona, Hawaii Island, and the need for government agencies and representatives from the private sector to mobilize and provide immediate services to our island residents, a state of emergency is authorized pursuant to Chapter 127A Hawai’ i Revised Statutes, and Chapter 7, Hawaii County Code.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, HARRY KIM, Mayor of the County of Hawai’ i, do hereby proclaim and declare that an emergency contemplated by section 127A- 14, Hawaii Revised Statutes has occurred in the County of Hawai’ i and hereby proclaim an emergency for the purposes of implementing the emergency management functions as allowed by law, effective August 1, 2017, and continuing thereon for 60 days or until further act by this office.

I FURTHER DECLARE, that pursuant to sections 127A- 13( b)( 1) and ( 2) the following County laws are suspended during the emergency period as they relate to the grounds of Hale Kikaha Project located in the District of North Kona, County and State of Hawaii:

  1. Chapter 5 Building Code.
  2. Chapter 25 Zoning Code.
  3. Chapter 26 Fire Code.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the County of Hawaii to be affixed. Done this 1st day of August, 2017 in Hilo, Hawai’ i.

HARRY KIM
Mayor
County of Hawai’ i

Guest Commentary – Audit the Honolulu Rail Project

What does it say about the state of governance in Hawaii that endorsing basic standards of fiscal responsibility is a revolutionary act?

Ever since the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii launched its campaign to “audit the rail,” we’ve heard lots of excuses and evasions as to why an independent, thorough audit of Honolulu’s over-budget and behind-schedule rail project isn’t necessary.

But we’ve also seen that the public wants answers about the system and isn’t happy with the political foot-dragging.

Now, we’re finally seeing some results.

Trevor Ozawa, Honolulu City Councilmember for District 4 (Ala Moana to Hawaii Kai), has introduced a resolution calling for an, “economy and efficiency audit” of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART), in order to discover the causes of the project’s significant and troubling cost overruns.

Click to read the full resolution

Noting in his resolution that the estimated cost for the rail is now more than $10 billion — up from $5.1 million in 2012 — Ozawa points out that HART has not updated its financial plan “to reflect the rail project’s current financial condition”; that the semi-autonomous city agency has not been maintaining accurate and complete financial records; that its management, operations and maintenance plans are “outdated and unreliable”; that it lacks the proper tools to administer contract payments; and that the actual costs of the rail project are not being properly managed against budgeted costs.

Most of these failings aren’t news to anyone who has followed the rail controversy, but it is encouraging to see a key Hawaii policymaker finally demanding answers.

The resolution even states that the audit should both identify the causes of inefficient and uneconomical practices and investigate whether the “entity audited has complied with laws and regulations on matters of economy and efficiency.”

The resolution notes that in June, “certain HART board members indicated that the HART board would not fund a special audit that would examine the cost overruns for the rail project.” But, the resolution adds, “there must be a higher level of transparency concerning the reasons for the cost overruns.”

We agree.

It may have taken some time, but our message is getting through.

So let’s keep up the pressure. Ask your friends and family to join the campaign to audit the rail. If they haven’t already, they can add their names to our online petition at AuditTheRail.com.

E Hana Kakou (Let’s work together!),

Keli’i Akina, Ph.D.
President/CEO Grassroot Institute of Hawaii

Inadequate Housing in Hawaii Plays a Large Role in Unnecessary Hospitalizations

Homelessness and inadequate housing are major causes of unnecessary hospitalizations, according to a study by University of Hawai‘i researchers.

The finding is from an ongoing project to understand and reduce potentially preventable hospitalizations for diabetes and heart disease in Hawaiʻi under Principal Investigator Tetine Sentell, an associate professor in the UH Office of Public Health Studies. Said Sentell, “We were interested in patient perspectives on the role of housing as contributing to their potentially preventable hospitalization.”

Tetine Sentell and Michelle Quensell

Reported lead author of the study, Michelle Quensell, a UH public health graduate, “We talked to 90 patients, and almost 25% reported a housing-related issue as a major factor in hospitalization. About half of these patients were homeless, noting the high cost of housing in Hawai‘i.”

Added Sentell, “Patients said it was hard to care for their diabetes or heart disease when they were living without amenities such as refrigeration, running water, a stove or a safe place to store medications. Patients also mentioned the challenges of following diet plans when canned goods were the only available foods at the shelters and food banks.”

Several major health providers in Hawaiʻi have recently created innovative new programs to address social determinants, including housing, within the health-care setting to improve health-care quality and reduce health-care costs. This research strongly supports these efforts.

Quensell is a 2015 graduate of the Health Policy and Management programs within Public Health. Other investigators included Kathryn Braun from Public Health; Deborah Taira at the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy, University of Hawai’i at Hilo; and Todd Seto at the Queen’s Medical Center.

For more information, visit: http://manoa.hawaii.edu/publichealth/

Hawaii’s Visitor Statistics Results for First Half of 2017

George D. Szigeti, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA), issued the following statement commenting on Hawaii’s visitor statistics results for the first six months of 2017.

“Our State’s economy benefited from the consistently strong travel demand that Hawaii realized in the first half of the year, especially from the mainland U.S., Japan and Canada. Visitor spending statewide grew by 8.7 percent through the first six months, which strengthened Hawaii’s economy as a whole and also generated $976 million in State tax revenue, an increase of $78.3 million.

“These statewide results and Hawaii’s ability to successfully compete with other global destinations is shared by all of our tourism stakeholders and industry professionals who make being in the Hawaiian Islands such a wonderfully enjoyable experience for visitors from around the world.

“As global competition expands and diversifies giving travelers more options, the sharing of the Hawaiian culture, the warmth of our aloha spirit lifestyle and goodwill of our residents distinguishes Hawaii as a place to come enjoy and experience, in many cases, again and again. Mahalo to everyone who contributes to tourism’s vitality and the benefits it brings to communities and families statewide.”

Hawaii Electric Light to Host Public Meetings on Plans to Upgrade Hawaii Island’s Power Grid

Hawaii Electric Light invites the community to public meetings next week to share its draft plan to modernize Hawaii Island’s power grid and seek input from the community

Open houses will be held on Monday, July 31, in the Waiakea High cafeteria in Hilo and on Tuesday, Aug. 1, in the Council Chambers at the West Hawaii Civic Center in Kona. Doors will open at 5:15 p.m. Company representatives will present an overview of the plan at 6 p.m., followed by a question-and-answer session

“Hawaii Electric Light has been effectively integrating renewable energy on our isolated island grid for many years, using innovative solutions to safely bring on more renewables while maintaining grid stability and reliable service,” said Jay Ignacio, Hawaii Electric Light president. “Since 2009, we’ve increased our renewable percentage from 30 to more than 54 percent, the highest in the state. To make the jump to 100 percent, we need to make the grid even better, stronger and smarter.”

The draft Grid Modernization Strategy filed with the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in June describes the scope and estimated $205 million cost to update the energy networks of Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light over the next six years. The plan aims to help bring on more renewable resources like private rooftop solar, increase reliability, and give customers new choices to control their energy use.

Highlights of this near-term work include:

  • Distribution of smart meters strategically rather than system-wide, i.e., to customers with private rooftop solar on saturated circuits; and customers interested in demand response programs, variable rates or who seek usage data;
  • Reliance on advanced inverter technology to enable greater rooftop solar adoption;
  • Expanded use of voltage management tools, especially on circuits with heavy solar penetration to maximize circuit capacities for private rooftop solar and other customer resources;
  • Expanded use of sensors and automated controls at substations and neighborhood circuits;
  • Enhanced outage management and notification technology.

Public comments gathered from this meeting and others held on Maui and Oahu will be included in the final plan to be submitted to the PUC at the end of August.

The draft plan and related documents are available at www.hawaiielectriclight.com/gridmod. Public comments on the plan can be submitted to gridmod@hawaiianelectric.com until Aug. 9, 2017

Hawaii Highways Project Data Now Available on HDOT Website

The Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) Highways Division is making project status data available publically on the HDOT Website. Available data includes the schedule, scope, and estimated cost for all current State Highways projects as well as all projects planned to begin construction in the next two years. The data is open to the public and is accessible through the following link:

http://histategis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=f69cd64b5d9a43b08ad6620d07b5e4c4

“We are pleased to roll out the HDOT Highways Project Status Map,” said HDOT Deputy Director for Highways Ed Sniffen. “This map tool allows members of the public to easily access information on Highways projects in their community. I would like to thank Highways staff and the Office of Planning for their support in making this data widely available.”

The HDOT Highways Project Status Map can also be found on hidot.hawaii.gov by selecting Highways in the ‘Home’ menu, then going to ‘Major Projects’ and selecting ‘Project Map.”

Users can view project information by selecting the lines along roads on the map or by selecting “View a PDF list of Projects by Area” in the map legend. Users may also toggle between current construction projects and planned future construction using the tabs “Current Construction” and “Future Projects.”

The search feature represented by the magnifying glass symbol allows users to search for projects by entering any part of a project name. For example, beginning to input “Kamehameha” will show an auto complete list of the projects involving Kamehameha Highway.

The HDOT Highways Project Status Map will be updated on a regular basis. Questions or comments on the map may be sent to DOTPAO@hawaii.gov.

2017 Rusty Scalpel Award Winner Is…

HB 375, CD 1 (Act 214, Session Laws of Hawaii 2017) has been selected by the League of Women Voters and Common Cause Hawaii for their 2017 “Rusty Scalpel” award. The “Rusty Scalpel” award recognizes enactment of a bill whose subject has been substantially amended without opportunity for legislative review as required by the Hawaii Constitution.Article III, Section 14 of our State Constitution provides “Each law shall embrace but one subject which shall be expressed in its title.”  HB 375 was titled “Relating to Taxation”.   When introduced, HB 375 proposed amending income tax rates to negate any income tax liability for those at or below poverty thresholds. The Senate Ways and Means Committee was the first to drastically amend the bill, gutting its contents, and replacing it with provisions to repeal the sunset date for the refundable food/excise tax credit. Then during Conference Committee, the bill was drastically altered to appropriate $1 million, subject to a dollar for dollar match by the private sector, to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, working in conjunction with the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association, for projects to address homelessness in tourist and resort areas.

Corie Tanida, of Common Cause Hawaii said, “While addressing homelessness in Hawaii is important and commendable, an ‘appropriation’ is not the same as ‘taxation’.  The final version of this bill doesn’t pass the relatively ‘low bar’ of having the bill’s subject match the bill’s title.”

Article III, Section 15 of our State Constitution provides that “No bill shall become law unless it shall pass three readings in each house on separate days.”  The unambiguous intent is to provide  the House and Senate, separately, the  opportunity to thoroughly review every single bill.  Amending a bill’s subject in conference committee without such review ignores this Constitutional requirement.

According to Ann Shaver, President of the League of Women Voters of Hawaii, “The 2017 session was a ‘Good News, Bad News’ situation.  HB 375, CD 1 was the only real candidate for our 2017 ‘Rusty Scalpel’ award.  On the other hand, HB375, CD1 was the worst we’ve seen in the five years we have presented this award.”  On July 12, 2017, without the Governor’s signature, HB 375 became Act 214, Session Laws of Hawaii 2017.

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