Photo courtesy of China Airlines
Photo courtesy of China Airlines

Honolulu Council Member, Legislators Push for Chinese Visa Waiver

Honolulu Councilman Tom Berg, who represents West Oahu, is urging through City Council Resolution 11-274 that President Barack Obama, the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of Homeland Security, include the People’s Republic of China, in the Visa Waiver Program.

Berg said the nation needs to simplify visa requirements and procedures for citizens of China to encourage tourism and business travel to the United States.

He introduced the resolution in response to the demand by Hawaii tourism and business leaders who want to promote tourism here.

The visa waiver program, established in 1986, enables nationals of thirty-six countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of ninety days or less without obtaining a visa.

“There is a great potential for growth in visitors from the People’s Republic of China to Hawaii,” said Rep. Tom Brower, the Chair of the House Committee on Tourism.

“The recent inclusion of the Republic of Korea in the Visa Waiver resulted in double number of visitor arrivals from Korea,” said Councilman Tom Berg, “we need to encourage visitors from the People’s Republic of China to boost our tourism industry and create jobs for our local workers.”

Rep. Karen Awana, chair of the House Committee on International Affairs, and Rep. Tom Brower, chair of the House Committee on Tourism, and Councilman Tom Berg’s Senior Policy Advisor Philmund Lee, met with tourism, business and Chinese community leaders to promote the idea.

Awana plans to promote the idea next legislative session, which begins in January.

Life of the Land : Bold Ruling by PUC Helps Hawaii’s Electric Consumers

The Life of the Land said the recent ruling by the Public Utilities Commission (Docket 2011-0005) is “bold” and deserves applause.

Aina Koa Pono proposed that HELCO buy biodiesel at about $170 per barrel and that Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) ratepayers subsidize the price.

Hawaii already has the highest electricity prices in the nation and is the most dependent state on foreign oil.

“Life of the Land aplauds the PUC ruling re  Aina Koa Pono. Every energy source has good and bad aspects. They must be weighed against each other. There are good and bad renewables. In this case the proposal simply did not pencil out, from an economic perspective, from an environmental perspective and from a social perspective,” said Henry Curtis, executive director of Life of the Land.

The PUC ruling stated in part:

“As a final matter, the commission is aware of and rejects as unwarranted and without merit the possible perception that by not approving the Biodiesel Supply Contract, the commission is “anti-biofuels” or “anti-renewables.”

“Indeed, State law, which recognizes the use of cost-effective biofuels as a renewable electrical energy resource, reflects the State’s overall policy of reducing its reliance and dependence on fossil fuels. Nonetheless, in this instance, the commission finds and concludes that the contract price for the AKP-produced biofuel, which the HECO Companies chose to file and retain under confidential seal, is excessive, not cost-effective, and thus, is unreasonable and inconsistent with the public interest,” Curtis said.
A video report by Life of the Land’s Henry Curtis is found here:

Technology Upgrade for the State of Hawaii

The state on Thursday released a report to the media detailing its information technology (IT) assessment, which a news statement called “a critical component in the Abercrombie Administration’s long-term plan to transform technology.”

Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) worked with state departments on a multi year, multi-phased plan that will modernize its information technology and information resource management (IRM) systems.

“The massive undertaking to bring the technology of government into the 21st century is critical to our commitment to transform government,” Governor Neil Abercrombie said.

The statement said: “The report explains that the state’s budget reductions over the last decade and lack of centralized governance of IT and IRM have resulted in minimal integration of business processes between departments, duplication of efforts and redundant processes, and aging legacy systems. Furthermore, the state’s current level of investment on IT and IRM is inadequate compared to benchmark standards found in other states and existing best-practices.”

The state has a newly appointed Chief Information Officer, Sanjeev ‘Sonny’ Bhagowalia, who will head up the effort.

A separate administrative Directive designates Deputy Comptroller Jan Gouveia to serve as the Business Transformation Executive – she is charged with “streamlining business processes, increasing efficiencies, reducing duplication of efforts and improving delivery of services.”

The state will put together its technology plan by July 2012, but change won’t come quickly – the transition is likely to take 10 years, Bhagowalia said.

Some immediate goals that Bhagowalia outlined include:

  • “Developing statewide IT governance to establish the framework for the new IT strategy, including policies, standards, architecture requirements and IT investment oversight.
  • “Prioritizing business process reengineering projects and implement performance changes.
  • “Identifying opportunities for statewide data center and disaster recovery solutions.”

The Baseline Assessment and Benchmarking Report, along with the Governor’s Administrative Directive, can be found at the OIMT website:  http://hawaii.gov/oimt/.

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