Mayor Billy Kenoi proposes a $370.8 million budget, which include the elimination of unpaid furlough days.
Hawaii Island state Representative Faye Hanohano apologizes for racial slurs.
More political power may be coming to Oahu.
HELCO prepares for geothermal energy bids.
Campaign finance reform advances in the state Senate.
The views expressed in this news summary are mine unless otherwise stated.
DETAILS (with sources cited):
(Stephens Media). On Thursday, Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi proposed a $370.8 million operating budget that reporter Nancy Cook Lauer says “hold the line on property taxes and eliminates the monthly unpaid furlough day for county employees.
According to reporter Lauer, the budget is about 1.5 percent higher than the current year’s budget that expires on 30 June 2013. Most “of the increase, $4.2 million, is for employee salaries for the extra 12 days due to the end of furloughs.”
The budget includes no increase or decrease in county positions and includes $1.5 million for nonprofit grants. A West Hawaii golf subsidy worth $500,000 will not be funded by the budget proposal.
Mayor Kenoi told reporter Lauer that “this proposed budget is the result of many months of cooperation and collaboration between all of our department heads and county employees…we recognize that this budget year represents another year of difficult choices for our community, and we look forward to working closely with the County Council as we seek to address both new and continuing demands for public services while also maintaining a balanced and responsible budget.”
The Hawaii County Council will hold briefings from 10 April to 12 April for the departments to justify their budget requests. The mayor will submit his final budget revision on 05 May, which the council can amend prior to their final vote. The mayor can reject council changes and the county council can override vetoes with a two-thirds vote.
(Associated Press). According to AP reporter Anita Hofschneider, Hawaii Island state Representative Faye Hanohano has apologized on the House floor for offending people by using racial slurs to express her disapproval of art in her office.
Hanohano apologized Thursday, the same day the “Honolulu Star-Avertiser” published her comments criticizing Caucasian, Japanese, and Chinese people. The Hawaii Island representative used the opportunity to need to support Native Hawaiian artists and issues, saying “I am an honest and straight-speaking woman whom descends from (a) long line proud leaders and warriors from Puna of Hawaii Island.” She apologized for her remarks and said that she is committed to represent all people in the state.
Eva Laird Smith, the executive director of the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, told the AP the incident started when exhibit specialists were hanging paintings in Hanohano’s office on Wednesday. Smith said Hanohano “used racial epithets to express her displeasure that the work wasn’t completed by Native Hawaiians.’
Hanohano said her comments weren’t intended to be offensive, adding that “clearly comments that were intended to be an impassioned plea for increasing the visibility and support of Native Hawaiian artists were expressed in a manner that did not accurately reflect their intent, sentiment, or the integrity of this office.”
Smith told the AP that she accepts the public apology and hopes the foundation can maintain a strong relationship with the Legislature. Smith made it clear that “there is no place in our society for something of this nature.”
(Hawaii Tribune-Herald). According to reporter Tom Callis, state lawmakers are discussing a measure that “could move the balance of power in the state Legislature even more toward Oahu.” This is the fallout from last year’s effort to exclude nonresident military personnel and students from population counts when drafting district lines to conform to census results. That program helped Hawaii Island to gain a fourth state Senate seat.
Callis says critics of this method of counting constituents, which is now being challenged in court, “robs those not counted of proper representation.” Republican state Senator Sam Slom is approaching the issue from the legislative side by introducing a bill to require any “usual resident” counted in the last U. S. Census to be considered when drawing district lines. Hawaii Island state Senator Malama Solomon, who was one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit that challenged the counting of non-permanent residents, is supporting Slom’s measure. Solomon tells the AP that she is supporting Slom’s bill because she believes “the Big Island’s population would justify the extra seat anyway….the bottom line, with sequester, we don’t know where our military population will be.”
According to the AP, a lawsuit filed on Oahu challenging the current district lines is being considered by a three-judge panel in federal court.
Meanwhile, the state Attorney General’s Office is opposing Slom’s bill, saying “it is inconsistent with the state’s Constitution, which requires only permanent residents to be counted, and the 2012 Supreme Court ruling.”
(Hawaii Tribune-Herald). On Thursday, the Hawaii Electric Light Company (HELCO) announced it is ready to accept bids for expanding geothermal power on Hawaii Island by up to 50 megawatts. According to reporter Tom Callis, the bids are due by 30 April 2013, with a final decision on the bidder winner coming 120 days later.
HELCO President Jay Ignacio told reporter Callis that its request for bids is timely, because “we believe that the pricing for the energy from geothermal can be lower cost.” Ignacio believes geothermal energy can “help secure reliable service and offset oil-power production.” Currently, HELCO has a contract with Puna Geothermal Venture to supply 38 megawatts of electricity–about 20 percent of the island’s needs.
Ignacio said at least two possible bidders have considered property in the Puna district. Geothermal critic Bob Petricci indicated that litigation and civil disobedience could be used to stop further geothermal development in the district. Opponents of geothermal facilities are concerned about the release of toxic gases, industrialization of a rural area, and construction of more power plants. Officials at the Puna Geothermal Facility off Kapoho Road said its plant operates on a closed system and that state Department of Health officials have “found the facility to not be a public health concern.”
Hawaii Island state Senator Russell Ruderman added that “it would make more sense” to locate a geothermal facility on the slopes of Hualalai in Kona rather than in the Puna district “due to both opposition in Puna and shorter transmission distances.”
(Associated Press). The Hawaii state Senate Committee on Ways and Means has approved a measure aimed at increasing the number of candidates who receive public funding for Big Island elections. According to reporter Anita Hofschneider, the committee advanced a bill “to equalize the amount of money each candidate receives unde Hawaii County’s public financing pilot program.
Hawaii Island state Senator Russell Ruderman believes ” the current formula for calculating public funding led to some rural areas receiving tens of thousands of dollars, and others nothing at all.” Ruderman adds that the “disparity in dollars awarded has been the main criticism of the program.” He feels that correcting this issue will “attract more participants and become a model for public funding of elections in other counties.”
HAWAII ISLAND WEATHER THROUGH SATURDAY, 02 March 2013:
Hilo and vicinity–Partly cloudy with some sunshine and a few showers.
Kailua-Kona and vicinity–Partly sunny with a few showers south of Captain Cook.
Highs near 77. Lows near 63. Winds shifting to the east, 12-25 mph, by Saturday.
Sunrise Saturday–6:39 a.m. Sunset Saturday–6:26 p.m. Total hours of daylight Saturday–11 hours, 47 minutes, and 14 seconds.
HAWAII ISLAND TIDES FOR SATURDAY, 02 March 2013:
Hilo High Tide–5:35 a.m./7:16 p.m. Hilo Low Tide–12:09 a.m./12:09 p.m.
Kailua-Kona High Tide–6:13 a.m./7:54 p.m. Kailua-Kona Low Tide–12:46 a.m./12:46 p.m.
HAWAII ISLAND SURF FORECAST THROUGH SATURDAY, 02 March 2013:
Hapuna Beach breaks–flat to 1 foot. Kona and Banyans–1 to 2 feet. Ka’u and Pohoiki–4 to 6 feet. Hamakua, including Kolekole Beach Park–4 to 6 feet. Hilo and Honolii–3 to 4 feet.
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PRG HAWAII NEWS WITH RUSS ROBERTS