Channel: The Kaʻū Calendar News Briefs, Hawaiʻi Island
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Ka`u News Briefs Saturday, March 1, 2014

Gilligan's Cafe in Discovery Harbour is operating as a nonprofit to raise funds for Ka`u Learning Academy.
Photo from bigislandgilligans.com
“AFTER FIVE YEARS OF DECLINING REVENUES, we are finally witnessing a modest, measured recovery in property values,” Mayor Billy Kenoi said yesterday in his budget message to Hawai`i County Council. “This will gradually translate into a stronger economy and a brighter budget picture.”
The number of county employees has declined since 2008, but costs have increased.
Graph from Office of the Mayor
      According to the budget, real property tax revenues are expected to increase by 5.9 percent, or $13 million, due to new construction and an increase in taxable value. No tax rate increases are called for.
      The budget of $412.6 million is a 4.6 percent increase over last year’s.
      While the size of the county workforce declined by more than 150 employees over the last five years, “the new negotiated collective bargaining agreements will significantly increase our employee costs in the year ahead,” Kenoi reported. Wages, salaries and fringe benefits including health care and retirement for all employees will increase in all departments by a total of $18.4 million in Fiscal Year 2014-2015, with almost all of that increase attributable to these new agreements.
      Kenoi mentioned the Ka`u District Gym & Shelter as one of several investments “where our families can engage in positive activities, and where our coaches can teach our youth respect, discipline and teamwork.” Maintenance and recreation positions for the gym are included in the budget.
      Also included is preservation of funding for additional police officers in Ka`u.
      More on the budget is available at hawaiicounty.gov.
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

Joe Iacuzzo presents science programs for children at local libraries
and raises funds for Ka`u Learning Academy by cooking Italian
food at Gilligan's Cafe in Discovery Harbour. Photo by Julia Neal
Kathryn Tydlacka
GILLIGAN’S CAFE IN DISCOVERY HARBOUR is operating as a nonprofit to raise money to establish the Ka`u Learning Academy and plans to extend hours to include a Sunday brunch starting March 24. “One hundred percent of our profits go toward the development of a new school that will provide education to the children and families of Ka`u,” says the website at bigislandgilligans.com. Food and drink are served Fridays and Saturdays from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. The Sunday brunch will be from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
      The website kaulearning.com says that “Ka`u Learning Academy will be an innovative school that holds high social and academic expectations for the children of Ka`u despite the socioeconomic challenges that exist in our community, because we believe that all students can and will learn given the right educational environment. Ka`u Learning Academy recognizes that each child is an individual with unique educational needs, and we will develop and implement individual education plans that stimulate each child at his/her zone of proximal development, so that every child is engaged in learning in a safe, supportive and nurturing environment.”
       Ka`u Learning Academy is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Its director is Kathryn Tydlacka, who has taught at Na`alehu School and holds a masters degree in education. “She has had great success in educating students who struggle under the one-size-fits-all approach to education that has, unfortunately, become systemic nationwide,” the website says.
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

Accommodating growing energy generation from residential and business customers is
the subject of a bill passed by Hawai`i House of Representatives. Photo by Julia Neal
HAWAI`I HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES has passed a measure intended to help resolve the inability for thousands of Hawai`i families to install photovoltaic solar panels while being left in limbo by electric utilities. The measure directs the Public Utilities Commission to establish new guidelines and rules that will support the upgrade and modernization of Hawai`i’s electric grid and accommodate growing energy generation from residential and business customers. 
      “We cannot let families make an investment to save on their electric bills but then be left waiting months or years for utilities to finally connect them to the grid,” said Rep. Chris Lee, who introduced the bill. “They should be able to connect to the grid in a reasonable time and at a reasonable cost, and know what to expect before they put their money down.”
      HB1943 HD2 asks the commission to address technical, policy and economic issues associated with modernizing the state’s electric grid and include policies that would support a diverse portfolio of renewable energy resources and expand options for customers to manage their own energy use. The measure also directs the PUC to begin proceedings to discuss upgrades to the grid no later than July 14, 2014. The bill was drafted in response to the inability of the current grid system to accommodate all of the individuals and businesses interested in purchasing their own photovoltaic system and hooking it up to the grid.
      The bill now goes to the Senate for its review.
      This and other bills can be tracked at capitol.hawaii.gov.
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

Sen. David Ige
THE SENATE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE has advanced an amended version of Senate Bill 2609, which would incrementally increase Hawai`i’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 by 2017. 
      The changes to the measure reflect the committees desire to strike a balance between concerns from advocates on both sides of the issue to ensure lawmakers craft a responsible bill that boosts the minimum wage while not hampering small entrepreneurs.
      “Since last session, I have been in support of a minimum wage increase and have been working toward an accord. We’re at the midpoint of the legislative session, and there are several moving vehicles and ideas for lawmakers to consider,” said Sen. David Ige, chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. “I’m committed to ironing out the differences in opinion on this very important policy issue and am hopeful that we can strike a balance between all stakeholders so that we can come to an agreement by the end of the session.”
      Ige, with prior concurrence from Sen. Clayton Hee, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, recommended the following amendments to the measure: delete the provision for authorizing the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations to adjust the minimum hourly wage to the nearest five cents based on the Honolulu region consumer price index; delete the repeal of the tip credit; and add a blank amount tip credit.
      These amendments will allow lawmakers to further the discussion, consider new proposals such as a “poverty threshold” to help protect low-income workers and work out specifics on the amount of the tip credit.
      The measure now goes to the Senate floor for third reading where, if approved, it will then move to the House of Representatives for consideration. Senators are expected to take the bill up during a full floor session on Tuesday, March 4.
      This and other bills can be tracked at capitol.hawaii.gov.
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie joined counterparts to address potential National Guard cuts.
Photo from Office of the Governor
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA HAS REAPPOINTED Gov. Neil Abercrombie to the Council of Governors, the White House announced this week. The council consists of 10 governors appointed by the President to focus on matters of national security, homeland defense, synchronization and integration of state and military activities in the United States and matters of mutual interest pertaining to the National Guard. 
      “I am honored to have the opportunity to continue serving on the Council of Governors, which gives Hawai`i a strong voice, together with our congressional delegation, in future decisions regarding the protection of our state and nation,” said Gov. Neil Abercrombie. “During a productive and successful trip this month to the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C., I attended a Council of Governors meeting that addressed the Pentagon’s recently proposed cuts to the Army and Air National Guard. During the meeting, I was able to help formulate and sign a bipartisan letter from 50 governors, urging further discussion on budget and policy issues involving the National Guard.”
      While in Washington, Abercrombie also participated in NGA sessions focusing on education, job training, homeland security and public safety, as well as attended four meetings/events at the White House.
      The Council of Governors was established by Section 1822 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 and implemented by Presidential Executive Order 13528. In addition to the 10 council members (five from each political party), charter federal participants include the secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security, presidential homeland security and counterterrorism advisors, the commander of U.S. Northern Command, the commandant of the Coast Guard and the chief of the National Guard Bureau.
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

MYDOCK: VISIONARY WOOD LATHE ART opens today at Volcano Art Center Gallery in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, with a reception from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Award-winning wood lathe artist John Mydock displays his newest body of work, which represents his creative passion for turning and embellishing Hawaiian tropical hardwoods, through Sunday, March 30.

HIGHER EDUCATION ASSISTANCE is available Tuesday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Na`alehu United Methodist Church. Kamehameha Schools representatives meet with students who want to pursue education beyond high school and families who want help with summer program applications and more information about resources. Call 935-0116.

See the March issue of The Ka`u Calendar newspaper online at kaucalendar.com.


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