Hawaii News – What’s Hot

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Federal judges will hear challenge to state reapportionment plan


Reapportionment controversy is nothing new for the readers of this digest.

For weeks, I have reported on the changing district lines and the potential unconstitutionality of such decisions.

As of last Tuesday, it won’t just be digest readers who will be hearing arguments regarding reapportionment, as the US District Court agreed to take the reapportionment case and expedite a potential resolution.

If the case succeeds, the State would be forced to scrap the current plan and either go back to the originally agreed upon map or develop a new map that doesn’t blatantly ignore the law.

Senate Bill 2789 and House Bill 2527 are effectively dead after the HSTA lobbied to defeat the bills that would have implemented a system of teacher evaluation.

HSTA’s objection to the bills stems from what they are perceiving as an infringement on their collective bargaining rights by tying teacher compensation to teacher performance without going through the bargaining table.

Proponents of the bills, including Gov. Abercrombie have noted that the need for teacher evaluation is tied to meeting the standards set in the Race to the Top Grant that Hawaii was awarded for their education reform plans.

Does the HSTA really believe that the Federal Government will ignore this requirement or are they just playing high-stakes poker with millions of dollars? 

With the recent announcement of major route cutbacks and changes by TheBus, the City is doing its best to convince the public that the route changes have nothing to do with the Honolulu Rail Project.

The changes are meeting with nearly universal disapproval, as town halls are being held to help the public understand the rationale for the changes. DTS officials cited many factors, including the rising costs of fuel, but haven’t able to reassure riders that the affected routes (many of which are already packed full) will be adequate for their needs.

KHON has a full list of the changes, as does TheBus’ website.

The changes will impact many a bus rider, and the idea that the routes chosen for cutback had nothing to do with rail doesn’t pass the smell test.

Rail crews continue search for ancestral bones

232 trenches are currently being dug between Kalihi and Ala Moana.

Eventually, these trenches will be the sites of pillars for the Honolulu Rail Project.

The pillars will not be erected until 2016, but in the mean time, the trenches are being used to search for iwi kupuna, or ancestral bones.

10% of the work has been done, and no bones have been found yet.

The work is being done between the hours of 8:00 AM to 3:30 PM, and lane closures are occurring.

This is yet another part of the rail project that is occurring sooner rather than later.

State Surveillance Drone Has Never Left The Ground

Hawaii Reporter has brought to light another sparkling example of state government largesse: a drone that cannot and will not fly, bought and paid for by tax dollars.

The state, six months ago, purchased an unmanned aerial surveillance drone to patrol Honolulu Harbor. However, the state never received permission to actually fly said drone, so the drone is sitting in storage.

The state is looking to either sell or give the drone to another government agency who could actually use the drone productively.

The sale of the drone, which cost over $75,000, has led to questions regarding Hawaiya Technologies, who made the drone, and how the drone’s sale was approved.

Laura Thielen, lawyer, former government appointee, and would-be candidate for the State Senate, has been denied the privilege of running as a Democrat, thanks to the Democrat Party of Hawaii’s decision to enforce a little-known rule which requires all candidates to be card-carrying party members for six month prior to filing.

Why did the Dems prevent Thielen (who looks, on paper, to be a strong candidate) from running? The author speculates that this was all about preserving influence for incumbents and a general distrust of party-switchers.

This is exactly the kind of “controversy” that occurs when one party has a vise grip on power in a state.

Honolulu City Council member Stanley Chang has proposed an amendment to the City’s budget for Fiscal Year 2013 that would increase the contingency budget for each member by over 30%.

Chang cited rising expense costs for items such as travel, conference attendance, and community outreach as his rationale for the proposed increase.

Chang’s amendment would raise the allotment for each member from $14,400 to approximately $19,000.

Given the state of the economy in Hawaii and the nation in general, it is unsurprising that costs are rising for City Council members.

However, it should probably be said that this request seems to be out of line with other amendments proposed by the Council, which would cut other department’s similar budgets.