Watching and reporting about Hawaii from Washington Place to Washington, D.C.

5:41 p.m. Hawaii Homeless Count Up 6.1%

The Department of Human Services says the latest point-in-time count shows a 6.1 percent increase in Hawaii homeless numbers — up from 5,834 to 6,188.

DHS, in a statement, cautioned, “The data contained in the report are the product of a statistically reliable, unduplicated count of homeless persons in sheltered or unsheltered locations on a single day, January 25, 2011.”

View the full report.

3:25 p.m. Shinseki, Abercrombie Visit Vet Center

Neil Abercrombie, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and Marc Alexander visited U.S. Vets—Barber’s Point at Kalaeloa, a center providing services and programs for homeless and at-risk veterans.

“Between the two of us, we have some good working agreements on how we want to address homelessness here in Hawaii,” Shinseki said in a statement. “At the national level for VA, we have committed to ending veteran homelessness by 2015 and that includes working with Governor Abercrombie and seeing how this fits with his plan for Hawaii.”

1:14 p.m. Neighbor Isle Gov’t News

The Maui News reports that a proposal on a Maui Medical Plaza project to the Maui Planning Commission this week “revealed a difference of opinion” about where the core of the Kahului commercial district lies:

The site backs up on a bird refuge, but it also lies between Kahului Harbor and Kahului Airport. So is it core or fringe?

The question arose as the commission considered whether to grant a finding of no significant impact on the environmental assessment for the project’s planned six-story building and parking garage. The commission did approve it.

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports that a $9.3 million “white elephant” could be put to use as early as August, under a plan described Wednesday to the Environmental Management Commission:

Commissioners toured a 20,000-square-foot garbage sort station, originally conceived under Mayor Harry Kim‘s administration as an adjunct to a waste-to-energy garbage incinerator.

The County Council eventually balked at the incinerator’s $125.5 million price tag, but work on the sort station began in 2003, and changes mandated by the Hawaii County Council slowed completion. It was originally scheduled for completion in April 2007 and then May 2009. It’s currently being used as a storage depot for tires and other materials.

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports that a delay in a state contract for computer software for mapping “is keeping the county’s Redistricting Commission from starting its work,” but Chairwoman Rene Siracusa said there is still time for public involvement:

“Our big concern has been the software, and we have no control over that,” Siracusa said. “But we’re ahead of where we were the last time, in 2001. I think that they were behind at that point.”

The commission postponed a June 2 meeting until June 23. The 1:30 p.m. meeting in the County Council chambers in Hilo will focus on training the commissioners and the public on software that will be available online.

11:38 a.m. Inouye Off to Japan

Dan Inouye will fly to Japan Sunday to meet with Prime Minister Naoto Kan, U.S. Ambassador John Roos and other U.S. and Japanese officials “to discuss an array of issues including the relocation of U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam and the international response to the March 11 earthquake and tsunami,” according to a press release.

Inouye will also tour the area of Sendai that was hit hard by the disaster “to assess the relief efforts and evaluate the region’s most pressing needs.”

Inouye said in a statement:

“Every political and government leader of the U.S. and Japan since the end of World War II and the occupation have looked upon the U.S.-Japan relationship as essential to maintaining peace and stability in the region. Mike Mansfield, the legendary Majority Leader of the Senate and former U.S. Ambassador to Japan once said ‘the U.S.–Japan relationship is the most important bilateral relationship in the world. Bar none. Period.'”

Inouye will also meet with top business and industrial leaders of the Nippon Keidanren, the Japan Business Federation; and the Japan Foreign Minister, Minister of Defense and the leadership of the Diet. He is scheduled as well to address the Japan National Press Club and the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan.

11:22 a.m. Flags at Half-Staff

The governor today ordered all national and Hawaii flags at all state offices and agencies as well as the Hawaii National Guard to be flown at half-staff on Monday — Memorial Day — from sunrise until noon.

The president has proclaimed the day as a day of prayer for peace.

As noted below, flags will also fly at half-staff in honor of the late Hiroshi Kato.

9:38 a.m. Bill on Legislative Salary Cuts Now Law

Neil Abercrombie yesterday signed House Bill 575 into law, extending a 5-percent pay cut for legislators and top members of the judiciary and executive branches.

The pay cut, begun in 2009, was set to expire June 30. The extension is until Dec. 31, 2013.

Some lawmakers voted against HB 575 because they argued it may be constitutionally flawed. But most lawmakers felt uncomfortable restoring salary cuts in a time of fiscal austerity.

Gov May Veto Stimulus Oversight Bill

Neil Abercrombie has informed the state Senate of his intention to veto Senate Bill 590, which would extend the sunset date of the Legislative Federal Economic Stimulus Program Oversight Commission from June 30 to December 31.

UPDATE: A spokeswoman for the governor said, “It’s duplicative. Act 26 already does what SB590 does, which is extending the sunset date on the ARRA commission.”

ARRA stands for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, aka the federal stimulus program.

DBEDT testified in support of the measure, while a committee report endorsing the measure said this:

Your Committee finds that in these times of economic turmoil, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is instrumental in bringing, as soon as possible, additional financial assistance and other social services to Hawaii residents who have been affected by the current economic circumstances as well as improvement and expansion of benefits to the neediest individuals and families in Hawaii. This measure will help to ensure that these federal funds are distributed and expended in a transparent manner to maximize the effectiveness of the funds.

Mazie, Medicare and the GOP

Mazie Hirono yesterday tweeted (@maziehirono, 1,622 followers) this message yesterday: “Thanks @USProgressives Members for standing up for Medicare. It’s appalling that the #GOP is attacking this vital program for seniors.”

The tweet includes a link featuring a video clip compiled by the Congressional Progressive Caucus showing Democrats speaking out on the House floor about the Republican proposal to privatize Medicare. Hirono is a member of the caucus.

The video comes as Medicare is quickly becoming a major political issue in the 2012 campaign.

The Hawaii Republican Party has noticed. The party tweeted (@gophawaii, 634 followers) out this advice yesterday: “Excellent piece that clarifies what happened and where we need to go. http://fb.me/10a5d3cN4.”

The link goes to a Wall Street Journal article by Karl Rove explaining why a Republican lost to a Democrat in New York’s District 26 congressional race this week.

“Next year, Republicans must describe their Medicare reforms plainly, set the record straight vigorously when Democrats demagogue, and go on the attack,” Rove opined.

Flags at Half-Staff

In observance of the memory of Hiroshi Kato, the governor has ordered that all Hawaii flags at all state offices and agencies as well as the Hawaii National Guard be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset on Saturday.

Kato, according to a press release, served with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II:

“After the war, he earned a law degree and later worked for the State Senate. He was first elected to the State House of Representatives in 1959 and served for seven terms. Kato retired from the State Legislature in 1974 and was appointed by Governor John Burns to the Circuit Court bench where he served as judge for eight years.”  

Where’s Neil?

Here’s Neil:

Friday:

• Proclamation ceremony: Maunalua Bay cleanup volunteers, Executive Office, 2:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.
• Remarks: Le Jardin Academy Commencement, Le Jardin Academy, Kailua, 6 p.m. 7:30 p.m.

Sunday:

• Keynote: Hawaii State Association of Letter Carriers Conference, Waikiki Beach Marriott, noon to 1 p.m.

Monday:

• Remarks: Annual Memorial Day Event, Hawaii State Veterans’ Cemetery, Kaneohe, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
• Annual Lantern Floating Event, Ala Moana Beach Park, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
       


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