Hawaii Senate to Vote on Controversial Nomination to HCDA Board

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The Hawaii Senate plans to vote Thursday on Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s nomination of Brian Tamamoto to the Hawaii Community Development Authority’s Kakaako board. 

Tamamoto, the executive vice president of Resort Holdings LLC, a subsidiary of Kobayashi Group, was nominated in December to fill the board position set aside for a representative from the small business community.

His nomination comes at a time when the HCDA has been under intense political scrutiny for approving a slew of new high rises in Kakaako despite vocal public opposition.  

Abercrombie has been criticized for leaving HCDA board positions vacant for several months, which allowed his cabinet members to fill a majority of seats on the influential Kakaako board.

Members of Hawaii’s construction industry, including the Pacific Resource Partnership and several construction-related unions, praised Tamamoto’s nomination. Tyler Dos Santos-Tam from the Hawaii Construction Alliance called Tamamoto “a knowledgeable and capable steward for the transformation of Kakaako.”

But Tamamoto’s appointment is opposed by many who believe he has a conflict of interest through his association with the Kobayashi Group, a developer in Kakaako.

More than 240 people have signed a petition urging the governor to withdraw Tamamoto’s name, arguing that “his appointment only perpetuates the on-going effort to fast track development approvals despite the myriad of concerns raised by residents.”

Sen. Laura Thielen argued in a blog post on Wednesday at Tamamoto’s confirmation would break the law because he is not from the small business community.

When asked earlier this month whether the governor planned to withdraw Tamamoto’s name in light of public opposition, Abercrombie’s spokesman said, “Brian Tamamoto was chosen from a list of nominees selected by the City and County of Honolulu. The Governor respects the Senate’s advice and consent process, which allows for public comment.”

Photo: Construction in Kakaako in Nov. 2013 (PF Bentley/Civil Beat).

— Anita Hofschneider 

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Two More Coqui Frogs Found on Oahu

Two more coqui frogs were found recently in Honolulu. One frog was turned in by a grounds crew at a Waikiki hotel on April 12, and the other was captured by staff of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture at a Kalihi Valley home April 17.

The department is concerned that in both incidents there was a reluctance to contact HDOA at the initial detection of the coqui mating call.

Suspected invasive species should be reported immediately to the state’s toll-free pest hotline 643-PEST (7378).

To hear what a coqui frog sounds like, click here. Enjoy!

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Photo: Ko-KEE! (DOA)

—Chad Blair

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Public Access Trails Hawaii Wins Case Against Haleakala Ranch Company on Maui

A jury on Maui ruled Wednesday that the Haleakala Trail on Maui belongs to the state, dismissing Haleakala Ranch Company’s claim to the land.

The decision followed a 14-day jury trial brought by Public Access Trails Hawaii. The Maui-based nonprofit has been advocating since 2011 to secure public access to the historic trail. The state later joined PATH as a co-plaintiff.

Don Young, president of the Haleakala Ranch Company, said he was disappointed in the verdict and will consider the possibility of an appeal. 

"We believe that all landowners in Hawaii should be concerned about the potential impact of this verdict and the risk of other claims arising from the Highways Act of 1892," Young said, noting that the company has stewarded the land for more than 125 years. 

PATH’s executive director, David Brown, said in a statement that the decision was “ground-breaking.” 

“The court victory today should be celebrated by anyone who wants to recognize, preserve and protect Hawaii’s unique and rich cultural past, including Hawaii’s historical trails,” Brown said.

The next part of the trial will determine the level of public access to the road and how it will be managed.

Read Civil Beat’s related coverage: 

Development Sparks Effort to Designate Historic Coastal Trail on Kauai

Bill Would Give Hawaii Legislators More Power Over Public Trails

Hawaii Land Board Agrees to Study Haleakala Trail, Denies Initiating Land Exchange

Photo: A beach on Maui. (Courtesy of Sunsplash via Flickr)

 Anita Hofschneider

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Sex Abuse Lawsuit Names Marc Alexander, Honolulu Diocese

A sex abuse survivor filed a civil lawsuit in Hawaii today, naming former Vicar General Marc Alexander and the Diocese of Honolulu.

The lawsuit, filed by attorneys Mark Gallagher and Jeff Anderson, claims that the Diocese was” grossly negligent in allowing Alexander to work with children.”

The survivor, identified as Jane Roe 42, was a minor and attended St. John Vianney parish in Kailua when Alexander allegedly sexually abused her. The complaint can be read here.

Civil Beat left messages with Alexander and the Diocese today but has not yet heard back.

Alexander stepped down as vicar general in 2011 to became the Abercrombie administration's point man on homelessness. He resigned a year after he admitted to having had an affair while he was a priest.

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Photo: Marc Alexander and Gov. Neil Abercrombie, 2011. (Civil Beat)

—Chad Blair

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Arbitration Panel Approves Raises for Hawaii Principals

Principals of Hawaii’s public schools and other educational officers who are members of the Hawaii Government Employees Association are getting 4.5 percent raises for four years, according to a press release.

The raises, which are retroactive to July 1, 2013, were approved as part of an award issued by an arbitration panel. 

Other highlights of the agreement include a 90-day vacation cap and a “rewards and recognition” program whose details are still being worked out. The program will be able to distribute $400,000 total in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years to educational officers who receive top evaluation ratings.

In December 2012, the state Department of Education and HGEA agreed to a principal evaluation system that is now being implemented at all 255 regular public schools. 

Photo: HGEA logo

— Alia Wong

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Civil Cafe Brings Packed Crowd to Fresh Cafe

"I feel like for the first time, the city is listening."

This was one of the comments made at last night’s packed Civil Cafe, the first such event at Fresh Cafe at 831 Queen St. in Kakaako. 

Civil Beat will be hosting monthly Civil Cafe events, where our readers and the community can be part of the story process, having a chance to ask local leaders and influencers about issues important to their lives. 

Last night, our guests were Honolulu transportation Director Mike Formby and Hawaii Bicycling League Executive Director Chad Taniguchi. Reporter Sophie Cocke, who covers the Honolulu beat, was the host. 

Olelo Community Media aired the two-hour discussion on Channel 54 last night, and will be running the entire program again on Channel 53 at these following dates: 

  • May 5, 4 p.m.
  • May 12, 1 p.m.
  • May 21, 7 p.m.
  • May 25, 1:30 p.m.

We will also have full video of last night’s event on our site soon. 

We want to send a special mahalo once again to our sponsor The Bike Shop (yes, THE bike shop) for helping us make last night possible. 

Thanks also goes to Tiffany Tanaka, owner of Fresh Cafe, for providing the venue, and to the staff at Olelo Community Media for their technical know-how and assistance. 

And the Earth Day bicycling festivities continue tomorrow at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. 

“BikeUHM 2014: Earth Cycles” will be held along Legacy Walk (near Dole Street) from 8 to 10 a.m. tomorrow.

This year’s events include:

• test drives of ebikes from Ebike Hawaii

• bike lessons on recumbent tricycles by Hawaii Bicycling League

• a refurbished bike sale for UHM students from Cycle Manoa (all bikes under $100). 

Read more about the university’s Earth Day festivities here

Mahalo again to everyone who made last night a success, and see you next month at the next Civil Cafe, which we will announce soon. 

Photo: Civil Cafe (PF Bentley/Civil Beat)

— Gene Park

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Bill That Would Place Ads on Buses is Resurrected

The Honolulu City Council’s Budget Committee deferred a proposal by Mayor Kirk Caldwell in January that would place advertisements on the sides of buses.

The bill has attracted strong opposition from groups like the Outdoor Circle, which led the successful fight to ban billboards on Oahu. 

But Bill 69 was resurrected on Wednesday during a budget hearing and could pass as City Council members grapple with how to balance the 2015 fiscal year budget. 

The bill passed out of the committee with a 5-0 vote. Councilman Joey Manahan voted yes with reservations. The bill now goes to the full City Council for review. 

Caldwell has said that the extra revenue, which could bring in about $8 million a year, would be used to help restore public bus service that was cut due to fiscal constraints. 

Photo: The Bus (Flickr courtesy of ninacoco)

— Sophie Cocke

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Compromise Reached on Bill to Require More Boards to Disclose Financial Interests

In the spirit of the evolving romance between the House and Senate, as state Rep. Angus McKelvey put it, a compromise was reached Wednesday afternoon on a bill to add 15 more boards and commissions to the list of those required to file public financial disclosure statements.

If the agreement on Senate Bill 2682 holds and the full Legislature approves the measure before session ends May 1, it would mark a significant milestone on the path toward improving government transparency in Hawaii.

But it’s unclear what the administration intends to do if it reaches Gov. Neil Abercrombie's desk. There's concern among lawmakers and others that he will veto the measure because the new requirement would apply to current board members as opposed to future ones.

The draft the Senate passed last month would only add the three members of the Public Utilities Commission to the list of state employees who have to disclose their financial ties.

The House draft added 16 more agencies, including the University of Hawaii Board of Regents, Board of Land and Natural Resources and Hawaii Community Development Authority.

The conference draft approved Wednesday, which Sen. Clayton Hee introduced, snipped two boards from that list — the Hawaii Labor Relations Board and the Labor and Industrial Relations Appeals Board.

Members of the LIRA board wrote lawmakers a letter in March that went so far as to suggest that passing the bill might somehow lead to suicide or murder because their decisions are so controversial at times.

Read past Civil Beat coverage here.

Nathan Eagle

Photo: Rep. Angus McKelvey (Civil Beat file)

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Sen. Hee Holds Fundraiser During Session

State Sen. Clayton Hee, a Democrat, is holding a campaign fundraiser tonight at the Plaza Club.

The suggested contribution is $250.

Today is the 56th day of the 60-day Hawaii Legislature. Yep, yep, yup.

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Photo: Cash call. (Tax Credits)

—Chad Blair

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Hawaii State Budget to Come Down to Wire as House, Senate Struggle to Reach Agreement

With two days till deadline, state budget negotiators didn’t make a lot of progress after meeting for less than an hour this morning at the Capitol.

Conference committee chairs Rep. Sylvia Luke and Sen. David Ige said after the hearing that disagreements over what capital improvement projects to fund — including a $40 million deal with Turtle Bay Resort — are holding up the budget but they still fully expect to finish their work by 6 p.m. Friday.

Of the agreements that were reached Wednesday, education took center stage. The committee agreed to put $3 million toward pre-kindergarten, far less than the $5.2 million requested.

Luke said the reduced amount is a result of the Council on Revenues projecting hundreds of millions of dollars less revenue over the next several years, so lawmakers went with Gov. Neil Abercrombie's scaled-down request.

Check out Civil Beat later today for a complete report on the decisions made at the Legislature. 

Nathan Eagle

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Photo: Hawaii Sen. David Ige and Rep. Sylvia Luke talk to reporters about the state budget, April 23, 2014, at the Capitol. (Nathan Eagle/Honolulu Civil Beat)

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Hawaii Budget Negotiators Resume Work as Deadline Looms

State budget negotiators have reconvened this morning to continue ironing out the $12 billion spending plan for Hawaii in 2015.

Wednesday marks the fourth day the conference committee of select House and Senate lawmakers have met to resolve the differences between the two chambers’ versions of the budget.

The deadline to finalize the state budget is Friday, and some lawmakers have said it’s possible they will finish their work on House Bill 1700 today. All the other bills with a fiscal component are being held up until they do.

Look to Civil Beat later for a full report on the decisions made today at the State Capitol, from the state budget to minimum wage, financial disclosures to county hotel tax money.

Nathan Eagle

Photo: Budget conference committee meets, Wednesday. (Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat)

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Maui Council Approves Ban on Smoking in Parks, Beaches

From The Maui News:

Maui County Council members voted unanimously Tuesday to give final approval to a bill to ban smoking in county parks and on beachesRead more.

And here’s the latest in other neighbor isle gov’t, biz, culture and politics:

Stowaway undetected for hours before jet’s departure

Work to continue at UK telescope

Hanamaulu Park improving, pavilion green-lighted for removal

Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida headed to law firm

Bringing Wailua golf fees, charges up to par

State proposes settlements to Dr. Stover

Two hope dedication pays off in Miss Aloha Hula competition

Lihue Planned Parenthood closes office

Bail maintained in Wailuku sex assaults case

Crowd gathers near downtown Hilo park to demonstrate

MAUIWatch settlement still pending

New FEMA maps may hit homeowners in wallet

‘Wheel of Fortune’ to tape on Hawaii Island

Teenager arrested in fires on Molokai

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Photo: Paia Beach Tree. (bradmcs)

—Chad Blair

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Ige Pleased to Be Allowed Speaking Position at Convention

State Sen. David Ige, a candidate for governor, is happy that the Democratic Party of Hawaii is allowing him a speaking role at the state convention next month.

"I am pleased that the governor agreed with my call for fairness and that all statewide Democratic candidates be given the opportunity to speak from the floor of the state democratic convention and not break from traditions of previous years," Ige said in a statement. "This election is about hearing everyone’s voices, positions and issues, and moving the party and the state forward."

Ige is challenging Gov. Neil Abercrombie. Initially, the party said time constraints would not allow for candidates for office address delegates — though Abercrombie and Senate President Donna Mercado Kim do have speaking slots. Abercrombie asked the party to reconsider.

Honolulu Councilman Ikaika Anderson, one of Kim’s six opponents in the 1st Congressional District race, also complained about not being allowed to talk. The convention is May 24 and 25.

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Photo: State Sen. David Ige chairing a Ways and Means hearing. (PF Bentley/Civil Beat)

—Chad Blair

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On Tap at the Hawaii Legislature: April 23

A selective list of bills, resolutions, hearings, briefings, meetings and events for Wednesday at the state Capitol. Click here for more.

Conferences:

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Photo: Hawaii state Capitol. (Civil Beat)

—Chad Blair

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Happy Earth Day, Hawaii State Capitol!

More than 270 middle school, high school and university students gathered at the State Capitol this morning for a community clean-energy rally hosted by Blue Planet Foundation.

According to Planet people, “They raised their voices and waved signs along Beretania Street, advocating for a clean energy future powered by local, renewable energy sources to end Hawaii’s dependency on fossil fuels.”

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Photo: Happy people in yellow shirts, with state Rep. Chris Lee and Blue Man Henk Rogers at center. (Blue Planet Foundation)

—Chad Blair

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