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.

House Health Committee Passes Measures to Convert Health Connector From Private to State Agency

Moves to improve transparency, accountability and sustainability include changes to board membership of the Connector and creation of a state innovation waiver task force under the Affordable Care Act

The House Committee on Health today passed a number of measures addressing transparency, accountability and sustainability issues nagging the Hawaii Health Connector since its start up.The Health Connector is the state’s enrollment portal for coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Connector was created to match low income residents and small businesses with subsidized or affordable health plans under the ACA.

“I want to be clear that these measures are a work in progress and allows us to continue to establish a better framework and foundation so that the Health Connector can successfully move forward in fulfilling the goals of the Affordable Care Act,” said Representative Della Au Belatti (Makiki, Tantalus, Papakolea, McCully, Pawaa, Manoa), who chairs the House Committee on Health.

“Even as the healthcare landscape changes around us,we need to be able to respond to the developing rules and regulations to allow the Health Connector to move forward in achieving its mission.”

HB2529

The centerpiece for the package of amended and approved bills is H.B. 2529, H.D. 1, which converts the Health Connector from a private non-profit entity to a State agency and initially places it under the Office of the Governor.

“It says something about the importance we place on this agency and the work it does on behalf of the people of Hawaii when we place it under the direct auspices of the Governor,” Belatti says.

The bill also creates a task force whose primary goal will be to develop a health reform plan to obtain a state innovation waiver from certain requirements of the ACA. This will allow the State

to be more innovative in its approach to fulfilling the goals and objectives of the Affordable Care Act while taking into consideration Hawaii’s unique health care environment and Hawaii’s Pre-paid Health Care Act.

“Given the low uninsured rate that Hawaii has enjoyed because of Hawaii’s groundbreaking Pre-paid Health Care Act, we believe that we have a good case to put before health officials in Washington D.C.,” Belatti said.

One of the more serious concerns of the committee was the current board’s inability to come up with a workable sustainability strategy for the long term. The creation of a sustainability fee would address some of those concerns over the next two years after federal funding ends in December 2014 and as the task force works on a more long-term solution.

The bill also creates greater accountability and transparency by requiring the Connector to comply with chapter 103F of the state procurement code, imposing public hearing and notice requirements pursuant to state statutes, changes the makeup of the Health Connector’s board of directors, broadens the appointing authority of Board members from the Governor to include the Speaker of the House and the Senate President, and creates greater opportunities for public participation in the Health Connector through a consumer, patient, business and health care advisory group.

H.B 2529, H.D. 1, along with other companion bills, move on to hearings in the House Committee on Consumer Protection and Commerce.

Council Chairs Seek Return of Projected $72 Million Hotel Tax Revenue to Counties

Council chairs from all four Hawaii counties jointly announced their support for legislation that would repeal the cap on distribution of hotel room tax revenue to the county governments.

County Council Chairs for the Hawaiian Islands

County Council Chairs for the Hawaiian Islands

Council Chairs Gladys Baisa of Maui County, Jay Furfaro of Kauai County, Ernie Martin of the City and County of Honolulu and J Yoshimoto of Hawaii County said they testified  in support of House Bill 1671 (2014), which was before the House Committee on Tourism on Monday, Feb. 3, at 9:30 a.m.

Revenue from the state’s hotel room tax, known as the transient accommodations tax or TAT, is partially remitted to the counties. Citing the state government budget shortfalls, the legislature imposed an artificial cap on the counties’ annual remittance three years ago, resulting in millions of dollars in lost revenue to each county.

The council chairs said county residents and county governments earn TAT revenue by supporting the visitor industry in countless ways, including by funding tourism promotion, providing police, fire and lifeguard services and maintaining roadways, beach parks and other public infrastructure. They say the revenue should be proportionally returned to the counties, under an established formula.

According to Mike McCartney, CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, more than 8.2 million visitors traveled to Hawaii in 2013, a 2.6 percent increase from 2012, generating a total of $1.5 billion in state tax revenues.

Of the TAT revenue that’s returned to the counties, Kauai County receives 14.5 percent, Hawaii County 18.6 percent, Maui County 22.8 percent and the City and County of Honolulu 44.1 percent. Eliminating the artificial cap on distribution would mean the counties would realize additional annual revenue of more than $10 million each.

“We stand united and humbly ask the state legislators to lift the cap they imposed upon our counties three years ago.  Since then, the economy has improved.” Hawaii County Council Chair Yoshimoto said. “We ask that the State legislators allow the counties to receive our fair share of the TAT revenues so that we can provide the necessary services and meet our obligations to residents and visitors alike.

Hawaii County’s capped TAT revenue is $17.2 million. The TAT revenue distribution for Hawaii County would rise to more than $30 million (based on a projected increase of $13.4 million) if the cap is eliminated.

“In any given day, 21 percent of the population on Kauai is visitors,” Kauai County Council Chair Furfaro said. “It is one of our primary economic engines. If we want them to return to our island, we have to meet their high demands and expectations.”

Kauai County’s annual TAT revenue distribution is currently capped at $13.4 million. With the cap eliminated, Kauai County would expect to get $10.4 million in additional TAT revenue, based on Fiscal Year 2013 projections.

“Over the past few years, Honolulu contributed millions of dollars to upgrade and renovate several areas of Waikiki to enhance the visitor experience,” Honolulu City Council Chair Martin said. “The additional TAT revenues the counties receive would go a long way in maintaining our beaches and parks, to continue to promote our state as a premium visitor destination and, specifically for Honolulu, to avoid enacting poorly conceived revenue-enhancing measures that would negatively infringe upon our well-deserved and longstanding image as one of the most desired tourist destinations in the world.”

The City and County of Honolulu’s projected TAT revenue would be about $72.8 million ($31.8 million more than the current capped amount of $41 million) if the legislature removes the distribution cap.

Maui County’s TAT revenue distribution is projected go up by $16.4 million if HB 1671 is enacted. TAT revenue is currently capped at $21.2 million for Maui County.

“As promised, county officials will have a stronger and united lobbying effort this year to ensure that our constituents and visitors get what they deserve,” said Maui County Council Chair Baisa, noting the Hawaii Council of Mayors and Hawaii State Association of Counties also support repealing the cap. “We encourage the public to join us in supporting this measure by submitting testimony.”

Cumulatively, the counties would receive an estimated $72 million in annual revenue under HB 1671, which was co-introduced by all six members of the House of Representatives from Maui County, including Speaker Joseph M. Souki. During the Jan. 15 opening of the legislature, Speaker Souki expressed support for lifting the TAT cap during his remarks, saying, “It’s time.”

Rep. Tom Brower chairs the House Committee on Tourism. Testimony for HB 1671 is accepted at the legislature’s website at www.capitol.hawaii.gov.

Annual Report Highlights Hawaii’s Improving Economic, Fiscal Trajectory

The State of Hawaii’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013, has been completed and shows Hawaii’s asset growth has outpaced liability growth for the first time in seven years.

Fiscal

The 2013 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) of the State of Hawaii, measures the state’s net position as a broad indicator of its net worth and overall fiscal health.

“The report measures the state’s net worth and overall fiscal health, which clearly shows strong positive fiscal growth over fiscal year 2012,” Gov. Neil Abercrombie said. “Our improving trajectory is a reflection of positive trends in our local economy and responsible management of fiscal affairs, which now includes recognized improvements in meeting our obligations for timely reporting.”

The state Department of Accounting and General Services (DAGS) in coordination with the Department of Budget and Finance and the Office of the Legislative Auditor completed the CAFR on Jan. 27, 2014. The report shows the State of Hawaii’s net position (assets less liabilities) for primary governmental activities increased for the first time since 2006 by $307.1 million, from $4.5 billion to $4.8 billion. This represents an increase of 6.8 percent over 2012. Assets increased by $1.1 billion, which outpaced an increase in liabilities of $807 million. The growth in assets is attributable to accelerating growth in revenues and slower-paced growth in operating expenditures.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie was joined by Comptroller Dean Seki and Finance Director Kalbert Young to announce the public release of the 2013 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) of the State of Hawaii, which measures the state's net position as a broad indicator of its net worth and overall fiscal health.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie was joined by Comptroller Dean Seki and Finance Director Kalbert Young to announce the public release of the 2013 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) of the State of Hawaii, which measures the state’s net position as a broad indicator of its net worth and overall fiscal health.

In addition, for the first time in more than five years, the state received the Award of Achievement of Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association for its 2012 CAFR. The award is given to governments for publishing financial reports that are clear, accurate, and delivered in a timely manner. Under the Abercrombie Administration, DAGS along with the Department of Budget and Finance have worked with the Office of the Legislative Auditor and an external auditor to address deficiencies in the timely production of previous CAFRs.

“The CAFR represents a coordinated and truly collaborative effort of all state departments with the Legislative Auditor and external auditor,” said DAGS Comptroller Dean Seki. “For each of the last three years, the CAFR has been delivered in a more timely manner, compared to the state’s delivery prior, and will serve as a helpful guide for anyone who has interest in the financial operations of the state.”

Fiscal3

State Finance Director Kalbert Young commended: “Investors and credit agencies expect year-end financial reports to be available as soon as possible after the closing of the fiscal year so that the information is not outdated. We believe the state can continue to improve delivery of future reports.”

The CAFR also identified an encouraging decrease in capital projects fund standing balances from $281 million to $149 million. This reflects an increase in capital improvement project activity as more funds were deployed with improved efficiency into the economy through construction projects.

PowerPoint Presentation

Addressing Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) liabilities, Young added: “The report illustrates the importance of pre-paying annual required contribution for OPEB liabilities, as Gov. Abercrombie has been advocating over the last three years. The successful passage of Act 268 in 2013 and our intending Annual Required Contribution (ARC) contribution of $100 million in fiscal year 2014 should start to slow and then reverse the increase on the balance sheet and further improve our asset ratio.”

The State of Hawaii’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013, is available online at: http://ags.hawaii.gov/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/soh-cafr-20130630.pdf

Koa Values Soar – Makes Value of Big Island Forest for Sale Increase

Fluctuations in the tropical hardwood markets has resulted in a price increase, effective February 1, for a large parcel of old-growth koa forest on the Big Island. Named Ohana Sanctuary, the third largest privately-owned old-growth koa forest on the planet covers nearly five square miles of pristine koa cloud forest. Previously listed for $22 million, the price has increased $3.3M to $25.3 million. Beverly Molfino of Hawaii Life Real Estate Brokers is representing the sellers in the transaction.
Hakalau Forest

Situated on the slopes of Mauna Kea along the Hamakua Coast, the property encompasses 3,137.17 +/- acres and features more than 50,000 trees, including koa (Acacia Grey), ohia, mamane, hapu’u, eucylyptus and more. In addition to vast tracts of ancient growth koa, the property contains several waterfalls, including Sanctuary Falls and Haiku Falls, both named by the current owner. The waterfalls and streams merge and flow into the ocean.

The $3.3 million price increase comes amidst a 20% increase in asset valuation of tropical hardwood, particularly koa. A recent timber inventory determined there is an estimated 16.5 million board feet of koa wood alone on the property, with an initial harvest of 6.5 million board feet and a sustainable yield rate of 6 percent to 8 percent per annum. [16.5 mbd.ft. X .20 = $3.3M].

“Koa values continue to soar and this allows for an adjustment upward, although we feel that this price point is still substantially below market for this commodity, particular forest product due to it’s rarity and demand,” said the owners. The current owners, a family on the East Coast, are selling the property because they want to pursue others projects.

Given the popularity and scarcity of koa, a prized Hawaiian hardwood, the availability of this amount of Big Island land particularly a koa cloud forest, is highly appealing to a variety of potential buyers, says Molfino. She points out that demand and limited supply of the sought-after hardwood has resulted in a nearly 1,000 percent price increase for koa wood during the past decade. She adds that the property appeals to those looking to purchase the property for harvesting purposes or preservation.

Zoned as conservation resource, the potential exists to harvest the timber on site. Molfino points out that potential buyers need to do their own due diligence regarding the appropriate permits. Creating and generating hydroelectric power on site is another potential possibility given the number of waterfalls on the property.

The land itself is easily accessible from Chin Chuk Road. It is also within short driving distance to the transportation hub of Hilo, the second largest town in the state of Hawaii. Hilo is home to the largest port in east Hawaii, as well as an international airport.

For more information about the property visit www.beverlymolfino.net or call Beverly Molfino, (808) 937-7246, email beverly@beverlymolfino.net.

Target to Open First Store in Maui – Will Employ 200… Candidates Can Apply Online

Target is pleased to announce plans to open a new store in the city of Kahului on the island of Maui in Hawaii, in March 2015. The store will be located on Hookele Street as part of the Pu‘unēnē Shopping Center.  This will be the first Target store in Maui.

Target Location

The Maui store will be approximately 140,000 square feet, and will offer guests the everyday essentials and exclusive brands they have come to expect from Target. In addition, the store will include a selection of fresh produce, fresh packaged meat and pre-packaged baked goods, as well as a Starbucks and a Target Pharmacy, to further enhance guests’ shopping experience.

The Maui location will employ approximately 200 team members. Target will host job fairs approximately two months prior to the new store opening, at which prospective candidates may apply and interview for open team member positions. Candidates may also apply online at Target.com/careers or at in-store kiosks located in all Target stores approximately three months prior to the new store opening.

“Target is excited about our first store on the island of Maui,” said Cary Strouse, Target’s senior vice president of stores in the Western region.  “Since opening our first store in Hawaii in 2009, we’ve created strong partnerships with the local community and delivered our ‘Expect More. Pay Less.’ brand promise to guests throughout the islands.”

Target creates strong partnerships with local organizations in all of the communities where the company does business through Target’s community giving programs. This store will start a local grant program, contribute to the United Way and donate food to a Feeding America member, or approved agency. Target also encourages team members to volunteer their time to serve the needs of their community.

Cruise Ship to Miss Hilo Port of Call After Coast Guard Conducts Medical Evacuation of Injured Woman

An aircrew from U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Diego conducted a medical evacuation for an injured woman aboard a cruise ship approximately 150 miles southwest of San Diego, Thursday morning.

An aircrew from U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Diego transfers an injured woman to emergency medical personnel after medically evacuating her from a cruise approximately 150 miles west of San Diego, Jan. 23, 2014. The 69-year-old woman fell down a stairwell and suffered possible head injuries and internal bleeding. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Henry G. Dunphy)

An aircrew from U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Diego transfers an injured woman to emergency medical personnel after medically evacuating her from a cruise approximately 150 miles west of San Diego, Jan. 23, 2014. The 69-year-old woman fell down a stairwell and suffered possible head injuries and internal bleeding. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Henry G. Dunphy)

The crew of the cruise ship Veendam contacted the Coast Guard Wednesday evening, requesting a medevac for a 69-year-old woman who fell down a stairwell and suffered possible head injuries and internal bleeding.

The Veendam, which was approximately 460 miles off shore transiting to Hawaii, changed course to decrease the distance to San Diego.

An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew launched from Sector San Diego at approximately 7 a.m., Thursday, and flew to the cruise ship’s location.

An aircrew from U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Diego transfers an injured woman to emergency medical personnel after medically evacuating her from a cruise approximately 150 miles west of San Diego, Jan. 23, 2014. The 69-year-old woman fell down a stairwell and suffered possible head injuries and internal bleeding. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Henry G. Dunphy)

An aircrew from U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Diego transfers an injured woman to emergency medical personnel after medically evacuating her from a cruise approximately 150 miles west of San Diego, Jan. 23, 2014. The 69-year-old woman fell down a stairwell and suffered possible head injuries and internal bleeding. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Henry G. Dunphy)

The Jayhawk crew hoisted the injured woman into the helicopter and transported her to Sector San Diego, where she was transferred to emergency medical personnel for further care at approximately 10 a.m.

Cruise Critic reports that due to this incident… the ship will miss it’s Hilo port of call:

“…reports that the ship will arrive in Hawaii on Tuesday — one day late — as a result of the detour. Passengers will miss a planned call on Hilo on Monday, and they’re slated to arrive later than scheduled in Honolulu, Tuesday’s planned port of call.

NEHLA to Receive $13 Million in Capital Improvement Funds – Abercrombie Releases More CIP Funds

Gov. Neil Abercrombie today announced the release of more than $28.3 million in capital improvement project (CIP) funds administered by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT). More than $13 million of these CIP funds will go toward improvements to Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii (NELHA) facilities on Hawaii Island.

Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii (NELHA)

Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii (NELHA)

“A successful test-bed for applied research, demonstration, testing and evaluation, NELHA is a driver of innovation, economic development, and job creation on the Big Island and for our entire state,” Gov. Abercrombie said. “Investments in these and other facilities and programs will further opportunities to advance our energy sustainability, diversify our economy, and keep us on course toward long-term economic viability.”

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

NELHA

$9,694,000 – Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii (NELHA) Frontage Road and New Intersection Connections, Hawaii Island – Construction of a 0.8-mile frontage road and new connections to the Kaiminani Drive and Makako Bay Drive intersections on Queen Kaahumanu Highway

$2,323,000 – NELHA Seawater System Upgrades, Hawaii Island – Design and construction to provide a 28-inch warm water connector to the independent North and South systems, which currently transfer only cold water; upgrades will also create a backup system to transfer warm water in case of a catastrophic failure of the current warm water system

$1,000,000 (in addition to $3,000,000 in federal grant funds) – NELHA Alternative Energy and Biotechnology Incubator, Hawaii Island – Renovation of the administrative building; this project will increase NELHA’s utilization of 10,000 square feet by converting open space into leasable office space

Other

$7,000,000 – Dwelling Unit Revolving Fund (DURF), statewide – Additional workforce and affordable housing projects; DURF is used for the acquisition of real property, primarily for the development and construction of residential properties, and interim and permanent loans to developers at below-market rates to offer incentives for workforce and affordable housing development across the state

$3,000,000 – Foreign-Trade Zone (FTZ) Import-Export Step-Up Incubator, Mauka Renovation, Oahu – Renovation of the FTZ incubator; renovations will increase the FTZ No. 9’s utilization of the building by converting 30,000 square feet of open space into leasable office space, common conference rooms, and training areas; the current office space is being used at 100 percent capacity (an additional $3,000,000 in federal funds have been awarded and appropriated for the construction of this project through a competitive Economic Development Administration grant)

$2,200,000 – Foreign-Trade Zone Pier 2 Facility Roof Repairs, Oahu – Repairs to roof, gutters, gutter drains, skylight panels, and perimeter eaves, as well as waterproofing the parapet wall of the facility; repairs will eliminate continued water damage in tenant offices and merchandise storage areas, improve structural integrity of the building, and increase available lease space within the warehouse

$1,855,000 – Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA) Community Development Districts, Oahu – DBEDT operational costs for 19 permanent, project-funded staff positions for fiscal year 2014

$1,300,000 – Waiahole Water System Improvements, Oahu – Design improvements to the Waiahole Water System; the existing booster pump and key sections of the existing water main need to be upgraded to meet fire flow and Board of Water Supply requirements

Solar Photovoltaic Installations in Hawaii Continued to Grow in 2013

Solar photovoltaic installations in Hawai‘i continued growing at a strong pace in 2013. A total of 17,609 solar installations with more than 129 megawatts capacity were added to the Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light Company grids in 2013. This is 39 percent more than was added in 2012.

The total of solar photovoltaic systems interconnected on the Hawaiian Electric Companies’ grids as of Dec. 31, 2013 is 40,159 with a total capacity of 300 MW. Of those installations, 96 percent take advantage of net energy metering, a program that began in 2001 to encourage the adoption of rooftop solar. With net energy metering, customers with rooftop solar receive full retail credit for electricity they generate and send to the utility grid. They use that credit to offset the electricity they take from the grid when solar power does not meet their needs at night or on cloudy days.

More than 70 percent of rooftop systems are on Oahu.  With 29,558 PV systems and 221 MW as of Dec. 31, 2013, 10 percent of Hawaiian Electric customers now have rooftop solar, a higher percentage than any mainland utility. On Hawaii Island, 7 percent of Hawaii Electric Light customers have rooftop solar. And 8 percent of Maui Electric customers have rooftop solar.

This unprecedented rapid growth in rooftop solar in Hawai‘i has resulted in some neighborhood circuits reaching extremely high levels of photovoltaic systems. An increasing number of distribution level circuits have rooftop PV capacity exceeding 100 percent of the daytime minimum load, the trigger for interconnection studies and possible implementation of safety measures or upgrades before new PV systems on that circuit can be interconnected to the grid. This condition slowed the pace of rooftop solar growth in the last quarter of last year.

“Our first priority is the safety and reliability of service to all our customers,” said Jim Alberts, Hawaiian Electric senior vice president for customer service. “At the same time, we remain committed to a strong, sustainable solar industry in Hawaii. We continue to approve new solar systems for interconnection daily. And we are working to find ways to add more solar power, including on circuits that already have large amounts of PV installed.”

Solar installations and capacity by utility as of December 31, 2013

  Solar Installations Capacity in MW
Hawaiian Electric 29, 558 221
Maui Electric 5, 246 41
Hawaii Electric Light 5,355 38
TOTAL 40,159 300

Cumulative solar growth in Hawaiian Electric Companies service territories, 2005-2013 (Data subject to change)

Senator Introduces Bill to Protect Retirement Benefits from Taxation

State Senator David Ige (16th senatorial district) has introduced SB 2982, a measure that purposes a constitutional amendment to exclude certain retirement benefits from income taxation. If passed, the question posed to voters and printed on ballots would be as follows: “Shall retirement benefits be excluded from state income taxation if the beneficiaries’ contributions were subject to state income taxation?” sb2982

“Over the last several years, we’ve seen how pensions have become the target of tax increases and means of increasing revenue,” Ige said. “This measure would assure that future legislatures do not consider taxing pensions, and help to protect the retiree’s in our communities and those living on a fixed income.”

Hualalai Academy Soliciting Donors to Calm “Perfect Storm” – Operation to Suspend May 30th

The Head of School at Hualalai Academy is soliciting potential donors to help Hualalai’s current financial situation.  Here is a copy of the letter being sent to potential donors:

Hualalai Academy on the Big Island

Hualalai Academy on the Big Island

Aloha,

Thank you for your willingness to look at the current financial status of Hualalai Academy, a K-8 independent school, serving the children of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

Over the past several years, the school has faced declining enrollment due to decreased discretionary spending for working families and the impact of new charter schools and online academies.  Although the Hualalai Academy Experience is clearly the program of choice, many families have had to make the tough decision and settle for a no-tuition educational option for their children.

This “perfect storm” of circumstances has led to our board making the tough decision to suspend operation effective May 30, 2014.  This decision was the result of multiple banks and lenders choosing not to refinance us based on our limited cash flow via student tuitions.

Specifically, the school has the following debt:

Mortgage and lines of credit with First Hawaiian Bank                                $1,600,000

Bridge loan with friend of HA                                                                             200,000

Anticipated Bridge loan with friends of HA                                                       500,000

Debt as of June 1, 2014                                                                                  $2,300,000

The anticipated bridge loans are currently being pursued so that we may be able to pay our faculty and complete the school year for the sake of the students.

Should we receive a “miracle” and find a way to eliminate past debt, we have the “team” ready to spring into action and keep Hualalai Academy open and poised to improve our financial position and grow the Hualalai Academy Experience.

As I write, we are fighting the clock. Students are applying to other quality independent schools and teachers will be receiving job offers as their reputation as outstanding teachers precedes them. So, time is of the essence.

In closing, I am the new kid on the block as I arrived on July 1, 2013 to help the school grow into the finest independent school in Hawaii.  Instead, I have been watching a slow death.  However, we are still breathing and your support would allow us to come back to life and once again thrive and serve.

Thank you for taking the time to consider helping Hualalai Academy.

Sincerely,

John R. Colson

Head of School

Hualalai Academy

The contact information for donations is John Colson 808-326-9866 jcolson@hualalai.org

Commentary – “The Coupe Family Single-Handedly Held Up the Mamalahoa Highway Bypass for 11 Years”

The acquisition the of right of way for highway projects is an ongoing issue for the State and County of Hawaii it seems.  Two projects come to mind; the second phase of the Mamalahoa Highway bypass and the final east side phase of the Daniel K. Inouye Highway.

Inouye Highway Photo by Aaron Stene

Daniel K. Inouye Highway.  Photo by Aaron Stene

The Coupe family single-handedly held up the Mamalahoa  Highway bypass for 11 years. They fought the condemnation of  1,500 feet of their property all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The US Supreme Court declined to hear the Coupe’s petition, which ended their battle and paved the way for the county to acquire the necessary right of way for this much-needed highway.

I’m deeply concerned the final east side phase of the Daniel K. Inouye Highway is facing the same fate. Three holdout landowners (Marvin Arruda, Richard Alderson and Rick Towill) refuse to convey part of their lands for this 5.7 mile highway. These parcels are located on the Puna side of the Puainako Street Extension and Country Club Drive.

I’ve tried to ask the Land Transportation Division of the State Attorney General’s office where things stand with the right of way acquisition for this phase, but they refuse to acknowledge my e-mails and hide behind attorney-client privilege.  The Hawaii Department of Transportation response to my inquiries isn’t much better.

The final east side phase of the Daniel K. Inouye Highway is currently unfunded.  I firmly believe its important to finalize the right of way acquisition, so this phase is shovel ready when funding is available.

Aaron Stene
Kailua-Kona

Big Island Rep. Onishi Calls for Stronger Protections For Hawaii’s Farmers and Ranchers

Hawaii Island House of Representative Richard H.K. Onishi (Hilo, Keaau, Kurtistown, Pahala, Honoapu, Volcano) is calling for stronger protections for Hawaii’s farmers and ranchers by introducing a bill to strengthen Hawaii’s Right to Farm Act.

HB2506

Hawaii’s right-to-farm law is designed to protect and preserve agricultural operations by allowing farmers, who meet all legal requirements and use accepted farming management practices, protection from unreasonable controls on farming operations and from nuisance suits which might be brought against them.

The law also documents the importance of farming to the local community and State of Hawaii and puts non-farming rural residents on notice that generally accepted agricultural practices are reasonable activities to expect in farming areas.

“Like many other states, Hawaii has had to deal with encroaching urbanization and pressure it puts on our farms and agricultural lands,” Onishi said. “Unlike most states, Hawaii is an island with very limited space for agricultural endeavors. We’ve seen how hard it’s been to protect our ag lands and to keep them productive in the face of other pressing needs and priorities.

“But if we are interested in sustainability and moving Hawaii toward greater self-reliance, we will have to strike a better balance between our rural and urban needs. This measure is designed to do just that by protecting our local farmers and ranchers. They have a right to farm in the best way they see fit, as long as they follow legal and accepted agricultural practices, whether we’re talking about ranchers, poultry, hog, vegetable, flower and plant farmers.”

The public can participate in legislative discussions and follow the progress of the bill at http://capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=HB&billnumber=2506&year=2014

Hawaii Representative Introduces Legislation for the Cultivation and Exportation of Marijuana

In the interest of economic development, Representative Rida Cabanilla (Ewa Villages, Ewa Beach, Ewa Gentry, Ocean Pointe, West Loch) has introduced HB2124 that asks the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism in consultation with the Department of Agriculture to convene a working group to develop an action plan to legalize cultivation of marijuana in Hawaii for sale and export to foreign jurisdictions where usage is lawful.

HB1224

All commercial activities from the production and export of marijuana and marijuana-related products will be taxed and revenues would be utilized for public education, health care and human services programs.

“Commercial cultivation and distribution of marijuana is a bold approach toward generating revenue while capitalizing on Hawaii’s inherent strengths.  Hawaii’s rich soil, coupled with its temperate climate, provide ideal conditions for year-round farming and cultivation. Hawaii is well situated to provide an abundant supply of quality marijuana to fill a growing international demand,” said Cabanilla.

Hualalai Academy Head of School Responds to the Financial Collapse of the School

Yesterday, I posted about the possibility of Hualalai Academy on the Big Island of Hawaii closing down at the end of the year or possibly sooner.

Hualalai Academy

Hualalai Academy

John Colson, Head of School, responded today with the following letter explaining the financial collapse of the school.

 Aloha Hualalai Academy Ohana:

Now that the sting of the Board of Directors’ announcement has settled a bit, I write as Head of School to clarify the announcement and the progress we have made to date.

First, I ask that you look at the situation with an open mind and realize that there is no one to blame for the financial collapse of the school. Over the years, the student enrollment has dropped substantially from a high of 235 to today’s enrollment of 112. This decline has led to staffing adjustments and annual borrowing from the bank to be able to continue offering a quality independent school program. The collective nature of the annual borrowing over the years has reached the point where lenders have no interest in working with us due to our lack of cash flow. Consequently, we have tried to turn over as many rocks as we could to see if some lender would work with us. Our final option told us “No” on the 15th of January. The Board of Directors met on the 16th of January and the announcement was made on the 17th to faculty and parents. The announcement was made in mid-January to give families time to apply to other independent schools that have an application deadline of January 31, 2014 should they so desire.

Our immediate task is to acquire a bridge loan that will allow us to finish the school year in total. I am pleased to tell you that as soon as the financial hardship was made public, several members of the HA Ohana stepped up and either offered cash contributions or bridge loans to ensure we serve the students correctly. More specifically, we have received over $25,000 in direct gifts and two bridge loans totally $300,000. With this level of support already in hand, we will most definitely be able to finish the year as currently calendared.

Once that is complete, we are committed to looking for that magical gift that would allow us to eliminate the collective debt and cancel the closure of the school. In the last 24 hours we have received contact information for potential donors who might help a special school like HA. I have to tell you it is a long shot but we are committed to trying as it is for the benefit of the students.

For me, this has been very hard as I care deeply about each student and want what is best for them. I would not have come to Hualalai Academy if I did not believe I could help build the school into the finest independent school in Kona. That being said, circumstances have dictated this action for now and with some good old fashioned luck, we may just be able to pull the rabbit out of the hat.

Please join me in doing your best to assist the students as they work to have a highly successful second semester. Tomorrow we celebrate the life and teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King. His teachings taught us to work together and to do so with a spirit of aloha and service to others. Anger and blame will not change anything but positive action has a chance. Come Tuesday, we need to support the students and faculty in the most appropriate fashion possible. Your cooperation and support is necessary and will be beneficial for all.

If you have questions, please contact me at jcolson@hualalai.org at your convenience. If I don’t have the answer to your question, I will surely get you an answer.

E malama pono,

John (Colson)