BY SAM SLOM – Rail Facing Huge $ Overruns. Best non-news story of the week: HART (Honolulu Area Rapid Transit) is facing huge cost overruns in the bids for nine transit stations for Honolulu’s bloated train to nowhere. This is no surprise and was predicted a year ago by Cliff Slater and the plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit (including SBH) against the city’s $5.26 billion rail project. The CEO of HART, Dan Grabauskas, blames the higher bids on construction delays he says were caused by lawsuits against the rail project. The City budgeted $184 million for construction of the first nine rail stations, however, according to the Honolulu Star Advertiser, the lowest bid was $295 million and the highest was $321 million. Future contracts for segments of the fixed steel guideway also are expected to have cost overruns. The rail will likely cost $9 billion by the time it is built.
Real Property Taxes Due Today. Have you paid your real property taxes? They are due today. I like to pay them separately from my mortgage so I can feel the pain of all of us being ripped off by Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and the City & County of Honolulu. This year, some taxpayers will pay increases as high as 70 percent because of reduced or eliminated exemptions and higher assessments (aided by more luxury buildings). The increases will particularly impact the elderly and those on fixed incomes. The extra money goes to the City’s spending binge and salary increases for union members. Yes, some say our property taxes are low, compared to Mainland states.
But they fail to understand that in 49 states, the real property tax is the primary source of revenue for area public schools. That is not the case in Hawaii. If you want to judge Hawaii’s tax burden, you must consider all taxes paid by residents, which amount to the 2nd highest per capita amount in the country. Anyone who thinks their real property taxes are too low can send me a check in any amount made out to “cash.”
Election Review this Friday. The State Elections Commission meets Friday at 10 a.m. on the 2nd floor of the Leopapa State Office Building to discuss the Aug. 9 primary election, the Aug. 15 special election and the November 4 General Election and to review the actions of Chief Elections Officer, Scott Nago. Didn’t like the recent election procedures, or the 800 missing Maui ballots disclosed 6 days after the Primary, or the rushed special voting in Puna? What about the unconstitutional release of partial voting results before all precincts had voted or recall the gaffes during the 2012 election by the head of Elections? Then come this Friday morning. This is not a partisan issue. I’ll be there. I have argued for changes for more than four years. They’ve not come. There must be accountability for poor performance. The integrity of our voting process is at stake. Join me!
Hawaii Still a “Sink Hole” State. Truth in Accounting has released its annual “State of the States” report, a financial analysis of all 50 states that focuses on the key assets and liabilities of each state. Of the 41 states with taxpayer burdens-generally due to unfunded health and pension liabilities like Hawaii-Hawaii is again among the worst five in the nation. Included are Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Illinois and Connecticut, each of which have the highest per taxpayer debt. Hawaii actually improved in this year’s report. The estimated 2013 Taxpayer Burden of $27,000 decreased by $14,300 from 2012 due to the initial legislation to annually pay down Hawaii’s $22 billion unfunded liability.
Hawaii Health Connector Down For The Count. The dysfunctional Hawaii Health Connector-the most expensive Connector in the U.S.- took another body blow as HMSA announced it will end its small business insurance program offered through the Connector as of January 1. The Connector, a bad idea from the start, already blew through $204 million in federal funds and wants another $15 million in state taxpayer money. The humane thing is to put it down. Now.
UH Appoints Interim Chancellor. UH President David Lassner wants Robert Bley-Vroman as the next Interim Chancellor at UH Manoa as of September 1. Bley-Vroman would replace UH Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple, who was transferred to the Chemistry department where he will teach. Dr. Bley-Vroman has been a faculty member at UH Mānoa since 1987 and has chaired the UH-Mānoa Faculty Senate Executive Committee as a full professor of Second Language Studies. He currently serves as Dean of the College of Languages, Linguistics and Literature.
Oahu’s most scenic run set for Oct. 4. Want to enjoy an incredible sunrise over the Ka Iwi Coast without dodging the cars that whiz by – and get some exercise too? Then sign up for the 2nd Annual Ka Iwi Coast Run & Walk, set for Oct. 5, a community event and a four mile journey to celebrate the Ka Iwi Coast scenic highway.
The run and walk will begin at 6:30 a.m. with the rise of the sun over the Ka Iwi Channel when a specially composed Hawaiian ‘oli (chant) is performed. The run continues around the Ka Iwi coastline, passing Halona and onto Hanauma Bay and then finishes at the Hui Nalu Canoe Club halau on the shores of Maunalua Bay.
This is the only pedestrian race sanctioned for this area of O’ahu. This special setting allows the race organizers to carefully craft an event that advocates for the pristine un-touched gifts of this coast. All participants will receive a commemorative glass fishing float, race shirt and packet with discounts to local retailers. Post-race refreshments, awards and meet community organizations sharing their missions. Shuttle service provided to the starting line.
Proceeds benefit Hui Nalu Canoe Club programs and supports the mission of the Ka Iwi Coalition and Livable Hawaii Kai Hui. Hui Nalu Canoe Club is a 501c3 nonprofit organization. Register Today www.kaiwicoastrun.org – Questions? email firstname.lastname@example.org or call: 808-256-7394
PETA Stops Tigers. PETA, the animal rights group is claiming a victory with the announcement by the Moscow Circus that it will not bring any wild animals here to the Blaisdell in two months. Under pressure, the Circus originally agreed to no elephants. Many people in Hawaii still remember the infamous incident involving Tyke the Elephant who killed his trainer, escaped from the Neal S. Blaisdell, and was shot dead by the HPD. That was 20 years ago. Legislative bans never passed here, but citizen pressure has worked to keep elephants in circuses out, and that’s fine. But a circus without any wild animals?
What? Another Starbucks for Kahala Mall? Some times it seems there is a Starbucks on every corner, but now there may be two within just feet of each other in Kahala Mall. A parking area fronting Kilauea Avenue was being repaired, but now there is a sign saying “Coming Soon-Starbucks.” There is already one around the corner inside the mall. Are we to have two that close and even less parking in Kahala Mall?
What Will They Do Now? Some high profile Hawaii politicians were ousted in the August 9 Primary Election. Some readers have wondered what they will do next. Gov. Neil Abercrombie will go down in U.S. history as the incumbent who lost by a bigger margin than any other governor. But he has many job options and four separate pensions to help him get by. However, there are other possibilities for him. He could be the spokesman for Travelocity, the company that uses a bearded lawn gnome as its mascot, or he could be a taxi driver who connects Miami to Honolulu.
Sen. Clayton Hee, who lost his bid for lieutenant governor, could conduct anger management classes. Rep. Faye Hanohano could open a multi-cultural awareness non-profit but haoles and people of ethnicities she’s disparaged, need not apply. Rep. Rida Cabanilla could consult on effective state grant approvals for troubled non- profits, and can start with her own. Sen. Malama Solomon can really do the hula-and wrestle steers. Luckily, Senators Donna Mercado Kim and Will Espero, both defeated in the Democrat Congressional Primary, still have at least two more years in their Senate jobs.
Republicans Rally. The stars of the Hawaii Republican Party, including former Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona, former Congressman Charles Djou, U.S. Senate candidate Cam Cavasso and others will be at a Lokahi (Unity) Rally in Kapiolani Park this Sunday from 3-5 pm. Entertainment includes Maunalua and George Kuo. Please attend the free event and hear from candidates offering real change for Hawaii’s future.
Four for Governor. As the smoke clears from the August 9 Primary, Hawaii voters will have a choice of four candidates for Governor: Duke Aiona (R), Jeff Davis (L), Mufi Hannemann (I) and David Ige (D). Most media have neglected to mention Libertarian Davis, a small business owner and radio talk show host, but he has some unique ideas on Hawaii social issues and is the only non-elected official running for this post. Grassroot Institute will host a panel of all four candidates this Friday at the Pacific Club.
Export Seminar Thursday. The Hawaii Kai Chamber of Commerce presents an Export Seminar tomorrow at the Outback Steakhouse, Hawaii Kai, 12-1:30 pm. Emphasis will be on exports and especially doing business with China and Japan. For information and reservations call (808) 522-8040.
2014 Hawaii Small Business Fair. This Saturday, the theme of the 2014 Hawaii Small Business Fair is, “Launch Your Dreams into Reality” It is a FREE Business Training Event! At Honolulu Community College, 674 Dillingham Boulevard, 8 am – 1pm. Choose from more than 25 valuable classes on topics such as: Business Planning, Specialty Loans & Tax Breaks, and Starting a Food Truck, among others.
Young Brothers Cargo. Young Brothers, Limited announced last week that intrastate cargo shipments between Honolulu and six neighbor island ports finished basically flat, experiencing a slight increase of 0.3 percent in the second quarter ending June 30.
Hawaii Biz C-Suite. Hawaii Business magazine’s highly-anticipated C-Suite series continues with a special session crossing the functions of Marketing and Information/Technology: “The CIO-CMO Divide,” happening WEDNESDAY, August 27, 2014 from 7:15am to 9:30am at Harbor View Center, located above Nico’s in the Pier 38 fishing village. $15 Attendance includes continental breakfast. To RSVP & learn more about the speakers, click here>
HVCB Names Ni. The Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB) has recently hired Michael Ni as digital strategist to develop and execute HVCB’s global social marketing program.
Ihilani to Close for Renovation. The JW Marriott Ihilani Resort and Spa at Ko Olina will close January 1, 2015 for extensive renovations and rebranding and will reopen with a new management contract presently held by JN Marriott. Marriott’s other Hawaii management properties are unaffected by this change.
TFH Annual Luncheon. The Tax Foundation of Hawaii will hold its Annual Luncheon on Wednesday, August 27, 2014, at the Plaza Club beginning at 12 noon. The guest speaker will be Russell Hata, Chairman and CEO of kama`aina food service distributor Y. Hata & Co. For more information or to purchase tickets online, please call 536-4587. The reservation deadline is Thursday, August 21, 2014.
HSFCU Resumes Mortgage Underwriting. Hawaii State Federal Credit Union (HSFCU) is once again funding home loans after a three-year hiatus. It recommenced underwriting mortgages in January 2013 in order to provide better service to its members.
Mickey D’s This Saturday on Kauai. McDonald’s of Waipouli (Kapaa, Kauai) will celebrate its grand reopening following a complete renovation. Customers will enjoy the new, sleek and modern look of the restaurant, which is now completely ADA accessible. The celebration will kick off at 9 a.m. with a blessing by Kumu Sabra Kauka.
UH Football Sacked? UH Athletic Director Ben Jay told UH Regents Monday that there is a possibility that football as we know it could end at the University. He wants another $3 million from the taxpayers. However, after being schooled, Jay walked back some of his more dramatic statements. Facing another deficit this year ($2.1 million) the 11th annual deficit during the past 13 years, the program is definitely in trouble. Not a strong investment idea. I was a UH student in 1961 when football was actually abandoned. It reappeared a year later in 1962. If football does end at UH, it could be replaced by the popular Political Games team competition at UH which is ongoing and where deficits don’t matter,
Colt Brennan And Gene Simmons. I watched a new reality series on AMC Sunday called, “4th and Loud,” about football, notably the new arena LA KISS team. Owners of the team are rock legends from KISS, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. Simmons was an SBH business conference keynoter here in 2008. The program highlighted the team’s organization, which was built around former UH star QB, Colt Brennan.
Unfortunately, Brennan had been diagnosed with brain injury in 2011 and Sunday’s story was all about his medical clearance to play football. This was in the local sports headlines previously, but to see and hear what actually transpired was dramatic, and sad.
In the end, Colt could not be cleared to play-doctors feared severe injury or even death could result from another blow-and it was the end of a tremendous career for Colt who had been recruited and mentored by June Jones. No one here will ever forget that undefeated miracle season of 2007. Colt was confused as to what his future will be but we all wish him the very best in whatever he does. It was also a loss for the LA KISS. But, as demonstrated many times, Simmons is a business winner.
Schatz Wins In Puna. The closest race of the August 9 Primary for Democrat nominee for the US Senate between appointed incumbent Brian Schatz and Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa was finally decided in Schatz’s favor, in Puna on the Island of Hawaii, last Friday. Schatz faces Republican Cam Cavasso. At one point, the margin was only 11 votes. Schatz won by 1,700 votes. A last minute court challenge to delay the rushed election by Hanabusa was rejected.
One More Week of SBH Office. Smart Business Hawaii (SBH), as previously announced, will go “virtual” and will be vacating its Hawaii Kai office in the Hawaii Kai Towne Center next weekend, August 31. The phone number (808-396-1724) remains. You, or someone you know, may be interested in the remaining file cabinets, chairs, a beautiful conference table, and other office furnishings. Call (808) 396-1724 for details.
It’s All Greek to Me. The Annual Hawaii Greek Festival will be back bigger and better than ever this weekend, August 23-24 at McCoy Pavilion in Ala Moana Park.
Panos on Fridays Now. Tune in to Dr. Panos Prevedouros, SBH Director and UH Engineering Professor, a weekly guest on Rick Hamada’s morning radio show now every FRIDAY, 7:05 a.m. to 8 am.
View “A Better Day With Panos. A Better Day with Senator Sam Slom in September on O’lelo (channel 54) features engineering and transportation expert, UH’s Dr. Panos Prevedouros, speaking about the Honolulu rail overruns, alternative energy and the problems at UH. Watch it here>
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