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Alan Arakawa’s Latest Fuck-up: The Good News? It Will Only Cost Maui $35 Million (Well, That’s Before The Lawsuits)

Administration’s Estimate of Waste-to-Energy Net Cost Off by $35M

Reposted from Maui Now

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An audit of the county’s Solid Waste Division reveals the county’s 20-year waste-to-energy contract is projected to cost $1.7 million per year more than presented to the council, Budget and Finance Committee Chair Riki Hokama announced today.

In January 2014, Mayor Alan Arakawa signed a 20-year agreement with Maui Recovery Facility LLC and Anaergia Services, with the administration stating annual savings to the county would be $916,500, compared to current landfill operations.

The audit, transmitted to the Budget and Finance Committee today by Council Chair Mike White, reveals the project will actually cost the county $835,000 per year over and above current operations, according to a press release.

“So, instead of a cost savings of $18.3 million, as announced by the administration when the contract was signed, there is a projected extra expense to Maui County taxpayers of $16.7 million for the term of the contract,” the press release stated. “This results in a $35 million cost disparity, according to the audit,” according to the announcement.

The cost savings were predicated on significant reductions in labor, operating and construction costs at the Central Maui Landfill, according to the audit, conducted by CB&I Environmental and Infrastructure, Inc.

“The analysis done by CB&I raises many concerns with the contract signed by the mayor,” Hokama said. “Instead of savings, the county may now see higher costs in the amount of $35 million over the 20-year life of the contract.

“Most important, I question the authority of the administration to sign off on such a project with large cost implications.”

Hokama said the waste-to-energy agreement was proposed by the administration as a “no-cost” contract. So there was no legal basis for council approval of the contract.

CB&I’s audit estimated cost reductions at the Central Maui Landfill would not be directly proportional to the reduction in landfill tonnage, as assumed in the Department of Environmental Management’s projected model.

The audit was initiated by the Maui County Council after concerns over staffing and regulatory issues arose during discussions for the fiscal year 2015 budget. The council questioned why additional staffing was needed when a significant staff reduction in staff was anticipated with adoption of the waste-to-energy project, Hokama said.

CB&I’s audit also concluded the county’s Solid Waste Division of the Department of Environmental Management is positioned to operate its solid waste facilities at current levels and maintain regulatory compliance. Hokama said the department was afforded an opportunity to provide comments on the audit and did not provide justification to dispute CB&I’s findings.

CB&I Environmental and Infrastructure, Inc. is a nationally recognized solid waste consulting group with extensive experience in assessments of public solid waste systems and has completed solid waste projects in island settings.

The committee will discuss and receive a presentation on the audit on Tuesday, March 15, 9 a.m. at Council Chamber. A copy of the audit is posted on MauiCounty.us/solidwasteaudit and testimony may be submitted to bf.committee@mauicounty.us.

 

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Gov. Ige Claims Hawaii is a World Leader in Conservation. Really?

Gov Ige shares his excitement that Hawaii was selected as the first ever US venue for the The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – the world’s largest conservation event to be held here Sept 1 -10 2016, because, says Ige, Hawaii is such a shining example of conservation efforts, a model for the world. Really?

We suggest that just the opposite is true. It’s just as easy to assert that Hawaii was chosen for this once in 4 years event because what’s going on here is among the most critical, evolving, man-made environmental disasters in the world. The conservationists are coming to try to save Hawaii not praise it.

It wasn’t so long ago that farms in Hawaii grew 90% of our food, with tons more going to export. Today farming in Hawaii has been given over to corporate driven, chemical-based “agricultural manufacturing” of seed products for export. So complete has this takeover been that we now are forced to import 90% of the food we eat and our delicate environment is being subjected to the massive risks posed by world’s largest array of open-field testing of unique biological creations and chemical cocktails, including and especially Round Up. whose active ingredient Gylphosate is a weak antibiotic and endocrine disruptor. Persistent exposure to weak antibiotics is a known path to disease as it fosters resistance, expressed as super bugs and super weeds and throws off the natural balance of beneficial bacteria that all life forms life rely on. Glyphosate is suspected to cause Leaky Gut Syndrome, Obesity, Gluten Intolerance http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3945755/ Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and a host of other dysfunctions http://ecowatch.com/2015/01/23/health-problems-linked-to-monsanto-roundup/ including many women’s issues because Round Up has been found to hinder Lactobacillus bacteria which is necessary for proper vagina flora balance. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22362186 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaginal_flora

Here on Maui Monsanto and Dow spent millions and still failed to ward off a community-driven electoral initiative to require independent testing of their field practices. The community here still desperately wants to know that their children are not being harmed by corporate abuse of our deeply-flawed, corporation-designed federal regulatory system and woefully understaffed and underfunded state oversight. In spite of Big Ag’s massive spending, the most ever for any local ballot initiative, Maui’s voters approved the motion and the companies are now spending even more fighting the people’s wishes in court.

HC&S’s decision to suspend sugar cane production was not only based on wet weather and a drop in sugar prices. The permitting process by which the company takes its water from public lands and which allow it to fill our air with toxic cane smoke are now being reviewed by the courts as violations of the public trust by state agencies. As well, a scam that was recently exposed whereby HC&S sold electricity generated from burning coal instead of bagasse in their sugar mill (that has no air pollution scrubbers), also contributed cane’s downfall.

Hawaii’s current agricultural system is not at all sustainable and with any luck this confluence here of people who know what they are talking about will serve to blow this issue up to world exposure and force our state and county governments to right this deadly wrong. We grow only 10% of the food we eat. Who will feed our people if the boats stop coming or a tsunami destroys our ports? The state’s efforts to re-establish food security here have been anemic at best.

The governor does mention trying to establish diversified Ag parks on all the islands, enhancing the Ag loan program to facilitate opportunities for small farmers, and skewing the Dept. of Ag’s attention away from corporate Ag towards the needs of small farmers. We applaud all these actions, they can’t happen fast enough. The Governor also acknowledges that the state has a problem when it comes to staffing it’s agencies. For some reason they can’t seem to find and hire qualified people. What is up with that?

One would think, especially with such a gathering happening here, that the Governor would be racing to enhance and increase Hawaii’s bragging rights on sustainability by supporting demonstration projects of farming techniques like ultra low-cost Korean Natural Farming. KNF has been adopted by the entire nation of South Korea and is winning favor the world over wherever Monsanto, Dow, Pioneer, Syngenta and the other chemical companies have not been allowed to dominate agricultural practices. Korean Natural Farming relies on enhancing the biodiversity of soil microbes and bacteria rather than killing them with Round-Up. The chemical companies view KNF just as they do GMO labeling and Maui’s GM Moratorium, as their enemy against which they will go to no end to stop.

Hawaii should be racing to support clinical studies of techniques like ultra low-cost Korean Natural Farming rather than allowing Monsanto to support a UH student’s Masters Thesis that explicitly seeks to discredit KNF.

There are a few measures before the legislature currently that will support the development of diversified non-chemical based Ag. HB2568 makes an appropriation for a nutrient cycling center pilot project on Maui. Testify at http://capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=HB&billnumber=2586&year=2016

SB1043 on invasive species would fund a pilot project to deal with little fire ants, coconut rhinoceros beetles, and coqui frogs. Testify at http://capitol.hawaii.gov/measure_indiv.aspx?billtype=SB&billnumber=1043&year=2016

Also please join and support your local chapter of Hawaii Farmers Union United​
They support pilot programs across Hawaii that support all forms of diversified AG.

Gov Ige’s campaign organization staged this “Chow Fun with the Governor” talk story event in a Kahului elementary school. His campaign only announced the event a few days before. The Maui News, after initially posting the event, for some reason subsequently removed the notice from their website. Members of the press were told it was by invitation only, which wasn’t the case. Hardly any press or community activists showed up. In fact there wasn’t much of a turnout at all. But there were good questions from the audience and we’ll air a full length version on our Akaku show, Mondays and Sundays at 7PM on Ch 55.

Thanks for viewing.

 

Thanks for viewing.

 

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HC&S to End Sugar Cane Production after 45 Million dollars lost these last two years, costing hundreds of jobs – It didn’t have to be so bad.

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Sugar cane production on Maui is ending, nearly 350 jobs will be lost and as many more are at risk. The sad truth is that it didn’t have to happen this way.

For decades members of the Maui community have been trying to engage HC&S in a dialog to carefully construct an intelligent exit strategy to move away from sugar cane burning. HC&S steadfastly refused to seriously consider alternatives to sugar cane production and they now find their backs up against an economic wall because of, they say, rainy weather.

Cane burning may indeed stop before the end of 2016 if, as expected, Judge Cardoza grants in February a preliminary injunction resulting from a current lawsuit that shows that the regulatory process through which HC&S is granted it’s burn permits is unconstitutional.

They blame the weather. I blame their arrogance and greed.

If the company really cared for the community here, the way they claim, they would have long ago embarked down the diversification road they are now being forced, and are ill prepared, to take.

If left to their own devices HC&S will surely continue to exploit the natural resources and people of Maui with no regard to what is righteous or pono. The company is, after all, in business today as a result of the shameful and illegal practices of the colonial, plantation takeover of Hawaiian lands and indentured servitude (slavery).

For example:

The company pays next to nothing for water that EMI diverts away from streams. Water that would otherwise support indigenous farming. They do little to maintain the integrity of the water system such that much of the water that is diverted is lost to anyone’s use.

The company and regulators refuse to acknowledge years of proof that the poisonous chemicals that are regularly sprayed leave the fields and adversely effect agricultural practices and lives elsewhere on Maui.

The company and regulators also refuse to acknowledge that the air monitors they have placed to monitor cane smoke are the wrong type and poorly placed to do the job.

Predictably, signs are already showing of new forms of exploitation being devised. In anticipation of expanding the cattle industry here The Cattleman’s Association recently removed from their website their oath (written in 1996) to provide protection from the elements for cattle. President Alex Franco has reportedly already approached the Council to remove animal welfare protections on Maui so they won’t have to provide shade.

What’s next, changes to Maui’s zoning laws that would allow A&B more real estate to develop? Leases to Monsanto for more under-regulated, mixed-chemical, open-field experimentation?

Our hope is that with the power of the internet and social activism this community will be able to reveal, track and block each new ugly attempt the company makes to transfer profits off the island and avoid doing what is right for Maui.

With the end of sugar cane mono-cropping the extremely depleted soils in those fields will need remediation before other diversified crops will grow there. Erosion control will be essential. If HC&S’s narrow-minded practices persist and A&B continues to withhold infrastructure investments, the transition out of cane will surely be a disaster for Maui.

What will happen to Maui’s energy costs and air as they keep their ancient power plant going by burning more and more coal instead of sugar cane?  That plant is near the end of its life and after all these years of taking profits out of Maui they have made zero investments in what comes next.

Not so long ago very little food had to be imported here. Today Maui eats 85% to 95% imported food. As well, the islands are already saturated with more agricultural chemicals than what our delicate ecosystem can tolerate. HC&S wouldn’t bother to consider it before but now they must be led into developing crops like industrial hemp, bamboo and regenerative food producing agriculture that are decidedly not dependent on chemicals.

There are many, many options that can evolve our agricultural economy in sustainable, non-chemically dependent ways that don’t require federal subsidies, so that Maui’s agricultural workers can stand proudly and not on the backs of taxpayers.

We support legislation that would allow Hawaii’s public school lunches to stop serving millions of pounds of imported apples and off-island bananas, to be replaced with tropical fruits that can be grown here.

Shame on HC&S for arrogantly refusing change, for ignoring the obvious, eventual demise of sugar on Maui and for not doing what they could sooner to protect those 675 jobs.

 

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Ige declares state of emergency for homelessness

ASSOCIATED PRESS Saturday, October 17, 2015, 1:19 AM

Loveleen Mori, 27, a homeless woman living in a large encampment in the Kakaako neighborhood of Honolulu, holds her dog as she tries to figure out where to bring her belongings as city officials start to sweep the camp on Oct. 8. Hawaii's governor declared a state of emergency in the state Friday in response to the growing numbers of homeless people in the state.CATHY BUSSEWITZ/AP

Loveleen Mori, 27, a homeless woman living in a large encampment in the Kakaako neighborhood of Honolulu, holds her dog as she tries to figure out where to bring her belongings as city officials start to sweep the camp on Oct. 8. Hawaii’s governor declared a state of emergency in the state Friday in response to the growing numbers of homeless people in the state.

HONOLULU — Hawaii Gov. David Ige has declared a state of emergency to deal with the state’s homelessness crisis just days after city and state officials cleared one of the nation’s largest homeless encampments.

The move will help the state speed up the process of building a homeless shelter for families, and the state is considering four possible sites, Ige said at a news conference Friday.

“We are making sure that we have options for those who are homeless to move into an emergency shelter, and the biggest deficit in the system is shelter space for families,” Ige said. “So the emergency proclamation would allow us to stand up shelters for families in an expeditious manner.”

Hawaii Governor David Ige, right, speaks to reporters in a 2014 file photo. He declared a state of emergency to address homelessness in the state on Friday.CATHY BUSSEWITZ/AP

Hawaii Governor David Ige, right, speaks to reporters in a 2014 file photo. He declared a state of emergency to address homelessness in the state on Friday.

Hawaii saw a 23 percent increase in its unsheltered homeless population between 2014 and 2015, and a 46 percent increase in the number of unsheltered families, said Scott Morishige, state homelessness coordinator.

There were 7,260 homeless people in Hawaii at the latest count, meaning Hawaii has the highest rate of homelessness per-capita of any state in the nation.

Homeless people and their tents line a Honolulu canal in a photo from June. They returned hours after a city crew cleared the banks of the canal.CATHY BUSSEWITZ/AP

Homeless people and their tents line a Honolulu canal in a photo from June. They returned hours after a city crew cleared the banks of the canal.

The state has identified $1.3 million to expand services to homeless individuals and families, Morishige said. In addition to a new shelter, the money also would go to the state’s Housing First program, which provides homes and services to chronically homeless individuals without requiring them to get sober or treat mental illness first, and programs that help families pay deposits and rent.

The new transitional shelter the state is envisioning would house about 15 families at a time, Morishige said. Two of the sites under consideration are in Kakaako, the neighborhood where the large homeless encampment was cleared, and the other sites are in Liliha and near Sand Island.

A city crew throws a tent into a garbage truck on Oct. 8 in Honolulu. Hundreds of people lived in the encampment over the past year, and crews were clearing the final sections of the camp.CATHY BUSSEWITZ/AP

A city crew throws a tent into a garbage truck on Oct. 8 in Honolulu. Hundreds of people lived in the encampment over the past year, and crews were clearing the final sections of the camp.

The recent clearing of the Kakaako homeless encampment could be used as a model in other parts of the state, Ige said. By coordinating with service providers, more than half of the estimated 300 residents of the encampment, including 25 families, were moved into shelters and permanent housing, the governor said.

“They definitely are off the streets and in a better situation where we are in a position to provide them services that will help us move them permanently out of the state of homelessness,” Ige said.

A homeless boy watches as a tent burns in the middle of the street in a large homeless encampment in the Kakaako neighborhood of Honolulu as city officials sweep the area Oct. 8.CATHY BUSSEWITZ/AP

A homeless boy watches as a tent burns in the middle of the street in a large homeless encampment in the Kakaako neighborhood of Honolulu as city officials sweep the area Oct. 8.

Meanwhile on Friday, crews were installing converted shipping containers for Honolulu’s latest homeless shelter on a gravel lot on Sand Island. The rooms in the first units were designed for couples and are 73 square feet.

“If they’re living in tents now, the individual units are going to be just as large or larger,” said Chris Sadayasu, asset management administrator for the Honolulu Office of Strategic Development.

A sign sits outside a homeless family’s tent in the Kakaako neighborhood of Honolulu as city crews prepared to sweep the area last week.HAVEN DALEY/AP

A sign sits outside a homeless family’s tent in the Kakaako neighborhood of Honolulu as city crews prepared to sweep the area last week.

The rooms, which were made from new shipping containers, each have a window and a screen door for ventilation. The structures are insulated, and the roofs have white reflective coating, and an awning will provide shade for relaxing outside, said Russ Wozniak, an architect and engineer from Group 70, an architecture firm.

The coating and insulation keep the units about 30 degrees cooler than they would otherwise be, Wozniak said.

“It’s kind of as comfortable as you can get without mechanical air conditioning,” Wozniak said.

A trailer on-site holds five bathrooms that each have a toilet and shower, and there’s a separate portable toilet and shower that are accessible to the disabled. When completed in December, the shelter in an industrial part of Honolulu will temporarily house up to 87 clients at a time.

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Last week, WikiLeaks released the final text of the TPP’s intellectual property rights chapter, and it’s absolutely terrifying.

tpp-protestThese are just a few of its most dangerous pieces:

Compel ISPs to take down websites without any sort of court order, just like SOPA. (Appendix Section I)

Extend the US’s copyright regime to require copyrights stand for life plus 70 years, preventing anyone from using works that belong in the public domain. (Article QQ.G.6)

Criminalize whistleblowing by extending trade secrets laws without any mandatory exemptions for whistleblowers or investigative journalists. (QQ.H.8)

End anonymity online by forcing every domain name to be associated with a real name and address. (Article QQ.C.12)

Make it illegal to unlock, modify, or generally tinker with a device you own. (Article QQ.G.10)

Export the US’s broken copyright policies to the rest of the world without expanding any of the free speech protections, like fair use. (Article QQ.G.17)

The worst part is that this is just one of the TPP’s 30 chapters.

The final text confirms our worst fears — click here to take action demanding Congress vote NO on the TPP.

Hawaii-anti-TPP-protest-Marco-GarciaREUTERS-July-30-2015

Photo courtesy: http://www.maryscullyreports.com

For years, governments have held critics of the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement in a perfect catch 22. Officials brushed off public outcry and concern by claiming that the dissenters didn’t have all the facts.

This was by design—the 12 country trade deal was negotiated entirely behind closed doors by industry lobbyists and government appointees, and even now the text of the agreement is still classified.

But late last week, WikiLeaks released the final text of the Intellectual Property chapter, meaning those excuses won’t work anymore.

We’re planning to go all out against the TPP, but the first step is to make sure Congress knows just how many people oppose the TPP.

Click here to take action demanding Congress vote NO on the TPP.

tpp_protestersTaking action today is just the beginning, because if all we do is send emails and make phone calls, Congress is not going to reject the TPP. Too many giant industries are seriously invested in making sure Congress ratifies the TPP.

If we’re going to win, we need to go big. Which is exactly what we’re going to do.

So take action right now. Contact your Congresspeople now and tell them to vote against the TPP. Then get ready to do more because we’re going to unleash some of our strongest campaigns ever.

Already we have plans to work with hundreds of different groups as a massive coalition to fight the TPP, coordinate gigantic on-the-ground protests in key cities across the country, and produce compelling content to spread the word to as many different audiences as possible just what is at stake in the TPP.

To do all that, we need your help — if you can, pledge to chip in $5 every month between now and when the TPP fight ends so that we can run our biggest, boldest, and best campaign yet.

Thanks for all you do,
Charlie

P.S. Want to read the text of the chapter for yourself? Check it out on WikiLeaks here, or read their overview of it here. It’s long and complicated, so maybe you’ll see something that we didn’t. If you do, send us an email.

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Maui’s One Chance To Get The Cable Service We Deserve

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Download Info:
CABLE-HEARING-TOOLKIT

Flyer-FINAL-8-2-15

 

 

PUBLIC HEARINGS ON TRANSFER OF OCEANIC TIME WARNER CABLE TO CHARTER

 

LAHAINA Tuesday, September 8  – 4:30PM West Maui Senior Center

WAILUKU – Friday, September 11 – 4:30PM Cameron Center Auditorium

LANAI    – Tuesday, September 15 – 12:00PM Lanai Senior Center

HANA – Wednesday, September 16 – 12:00PM Hana Community Center

MOLOKAI – Thursday September 17 – 4:00PM Kaunakakai Gym

 

Good News! The State DCCA has the power to require the new owners of the cable company to provide tangible benefits for Maui Nui residents as a condition of sale. If YOU speak up and be heard, you may finally have a chance to get the cable and Internet service you pay for. Please review the transfer documents on the DCCA website: http://cca.hawaii.gov/catv/cable_operators/charter-time. And feel free to use the following TALKING POINTS as a guide in preparing your testimony.

 

1. We want DCCA enforced service level agreements and rate transparency in Cable TV and Internet contracts so they cannot lie to us and charge us for fast Internet speeds and other services without actually delivering advertised performance.

 

2. Make digital cable TV, Fiber to the Home, and affordable, gigabit Internet available to EVERY resident and business in Maui County by 2020

 

3. Guarantee by contract that Akaku/PEG channels will be fully funded for the term of the franchise and displayed in the same manner and accessibility as PBS and Oahu local broadcast channels in analog, digital, HD, on every tier and on-demand on every device.

 

4. Customer service call centers, locations, field technicians and technical assistance must be available locally 24/7 x 365 with response times regulated by service agreements that include automatic refunds for lost service or outages.

 

5.  Free Wi-Fi, live transmission capability and high speed broadband service to, public and private schools, government buildings, hospitals, libraries, community centers, community media centers, non-profit agencies and public parks.

 

6. Guarantee that Charter matches the best public benefits it provides to any other location in the nation.

Send written testimony before Friday, September 25, 2015 to:

DCCA-CATV. P.O. Box 541. Honolulu, Hawai’i 96809

Email:  cabletv@dcca.hawaii.gov Fax:  808-586-2625

 

Go to akaku.org for more information

 

STATE TO HOLD PUBLIC HEARINGS ON TRANSFER OF OCEANIC TIME WARNER’S CABLE FRANCHISES TO CHARTER COMMUNICATIONS

 

SHOW UP AND BE HEARD!

 

LAHAINA Tuesday, September 8  – 4:30PM West Maui Senior Center

WAILUKU – Friday, September 11 – 4:30PM Cameron Center Auditorium

LANAI    – Tuesday, September 15 – 12:00PM Lanai Senior Center

HANA – Wednesday, September 16 – 12:00PM Hana Community Center

MOLOKAI – Thursday September 17 – 4:00PM Kaunakakai Gym

 

THERE IS GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS

FIRST, THE BAD NEWS

 

The Feds would not let the biggest cable company in America, Comcast buy the second biggest, Time Warner. Now all Oceanic Time Warner Cable systems in Hawaii are

about to be swallowed up by what, based on the evidence, could possibly be the worst cable company ever created, NEW CHARTER COMMUNICATIONS. But don’t take our word for it. Check out what cable consumers all over America are saying about the Old Charter. Below are some links to review in anticipation of the hearings. Holy mackerel! You won’t believe what you find here. Everything from through the roof pricing, to horrendous service, to slow Internet, to rude customer service… you name it.

If you can’t handle strong language, better not read these.

 

http://charter-communications.pissedconsumer.com/complaints.html

http://www.yelp.com/biz/charter-communications-glendale-3

http://www.charter-sucks.com/

https://www.facebook.com/CharterComplaints

http://www.complaintsboard.com/bycompany/charter-communications-a192.html

http://www.consumeraffairs.com/cable_tv/charter.html

BE INFORMED go to: http://cca.hawaii.gov/catv/cable_operators/charter-time-warner-cable-merger/ and review the posted documents. Check out FCC Form 394 Exhibit 6.

 

NOW FOR THE GOOD NEWS

 

Because this is a TRANSFER of CONTROL from Time Warner to Charter and not a rubber stamped, Franchise Renewal, the State DCCA has powerful discretion in requiring by force of contract, enforceable, tangible public benefit for Maui residents in exchange for Charter’s use of our valuable PUBLICLY OWNED RIGHTS OF WAY. DCCA is granting a telecommunications monopoly that is worth billions over the franchise term.

 

Akaku has reviewed and analyzed the transfer documents on the DCCA website and prepared these recommended TALKING POINTS you, the consumer, can use as a guide to inform your testimony and spec out the multichannel video service and fast Internet system you want for the next fifteen or twenty years!

 

TALKING POINTS ON THE OCEANIC TIME WARNER/CHARTER MERGER

 

1. CHARTER APPLICATION FOR TRANSFER OF CABLE SERVICE IS INCOMPLETE

In its Response to DCCA questions in its application, Charter refused to answer questions re: Section IV.C (1) listing names and locations of current franchises, and number of subscribers and gross revenues for each. It has claimed in several incidences that essential information requested by DCCA is “not within the DCCA’s scope of review”, “not reasonably necessary”, “burdensome”, “non-jurisdictional”, “overbroad” or “unrelated to the Transaction”. Charter has not adequately explained character issues regarding sexual discrimination and discrimination against people with disabilities cited in Section IV.B of their Application and in FCC Form 394 Exhibit 6., Charter has not adequately explained its legal, financial or technical capabilities. The Charter Application lacks specificity and detail in multiple responses to DCCA questions i.e. Response in Section II.G, General Information regarding changes, is deficient and incomplete. Response to IV.E, Technical Qualifications and Plans, are so incomplete that their lack of specificity makes them almost meaningless.

 

2. WE WANT A COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEM FOR THE 21st CENTURY WITH ENFORCABLE SERVICE LEVEL AGREEMENTS.

We want DCCA to put concrete language in ironclad contracts in addition to the franchise agreement that enforce rate transparency and service level agreements with Charter so they cannot lie to us and charge us for fast broadband Internet speeds and MVDS/OTT services without actually delivering advertised performance. We want cable programming service agreements as well. These agreements should contain penalties for non-compliance and be reviewable by DCCA every two years.

 

3. DCCA MUST NOT ALLOW CHARTER TO USE MULTICHANNEL VIDEO PROGRAMMING DISTRIBUTION SERVICES (MVPDS) OR OTHER TECHNICAL MEANS TO CIRCUMVENT FRANCHISE FEE PAYMENTS

Everyone knows technology is evolving at blinding speed and what we used to call “TV” is being delivered everywhere and on every device. Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) delivery of multichannel distribution of video content Over the Top (OTT) should not be used to circumvent franchise fee funding of community communication and cable regulation. DCCA must recognize this and mandate by contract that Akaku/PEG channels are fully funded for the term of the franchise at minimum present day levels and displayed in the same manner and accessibility as PBS and Oahu local broadcast channels in analog, digital, HD, on every tier and on-demand on every device.

 

4. CHARTER’S NON-COMMITMENT TO PEG ACCESS IN RESPONSE TO SECTION IV.E 10 and NOTE 13 NOTWITHSTANDING, CHARTER NEEDS TO AGREE TO FULLY FUND AKAKU, PBS, AND DCCA CABLE AND BROADBAND REGULATION AT AMOUNTS EQUIVALENT TO NO LESS THAN PRESENT (2015) FRANCHISE FEE LEVELS ADJUSTED FOR INFLATION FOR THE FRANCHISE TERM. THIS MINIMUM LEVEL OF FUNDING MUST BE PROVIDED REGARDLESS OF CHANGES IN FEDERAL OR STATE LEGISLATION DURING THE TERM OF THE FRANCHISE.

 

5. CHARTER MUST PROVIDE MINIMUM BROADBAND SPEEDS BY CONTRACT

Upload and download Internet speeds must be guaranteed by contract at affordable rates. Currently Internet service from Oceanic Time Warner is inconsistent, unreliable and erratic in most areas of Maui Nui making it difficult to move large media, data or medical files. In its application, Charter has promised minimum download broadband speeds of 60 mbps and a 300 mbps rollout on Maui. In the era we are entering called the “Internet of Things”, this is simply not good enough. Charter needs to demonstrate concrete plans to meet the State of Hawai’i’s stated broadband goal of Symmetrical Gigabit Internet Service to all Hawaii residents by 2018. These speeds need to be codified by contract in enforceable service agreements with its customers and all rural areas including Hana, Lanai and Molokai must be included in the expansion. A three-year rate freeze should be put into effect as well.

 

6. THE CHARTER APPLICATION PROMISED TRANSITION TO ALL DIGITAL NETWORKS WITHIN 30 MONTHS OF CLOSE OF TRANSACTION with a caveat that 1% of homes will not be upgraded to digital within this timeframe. Charter must agree by contract that Maui, Molokai and Lanai subscribers will not be part of this 1% digital divide and that Akaku PEG channels and channel designations will be preserved and transitioned to digital and HD in the same manner as PBS and local broadcast with channel placement and compression algorithms approved by Akaku and by DCCA in advance of transition.

 

7. CHARTER MUST COMMIT TO PUBLIC INTEREST BANDWIDTH AND FIBER TO THE HOME.  Charter must set aside a minimum of 10% of its total bandwidth for HD and on-demand options for all PEG channels. Charter must also agree to a 100% Fiber build out to the home (FTTH) for all voice, data, cable and Internet subscribers within 4 years of close of transaction or by the end of 2020 whichever comes first.

 

8. LOCAL CUSTOMER SERVICE STANDARDS MUST BE MAINTAINED

Customer service call centers, locations, field technician and technical assistance must be available locally 24/7 x 365 with prompt response times regulated by service agreements. Agreements must include automatic refunds for lost service or outages.

 

9. CHARTER MUST PROVIDE FREE Wi-Fi AND UPSTREAM VIDEO CONNECTIONS TO COMMUNITY ANCHOR INSTITUTIONS AND DESIGNATED FACILITIES. To support economic development and education, Charter Communications must provide live upstream transmission capability and high speed broadband service to designated Community Anchor Institutions, public and private schools, government buildings, hospitals, libraries, community centers, community media centers, non-profit agencies, and public parks.

 

10. CHARTER MUST MATCH BEST PUBLIC BENEFIT DEAL  A “most favored nation” clause should be included in the franchise agreement that would require Charter to meet or exceed any public benefit service provided by Charter in any of its markets at the request of the DCCA if the DCCA determines the service to be in the best interest of the public.

 

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Pesticides in paradise: Hawaii’s spike in birth defects puts focus on GM crops

Local doctors are in the eye of a storm swirling for the past three years over whether corn that’s been genetically modified to resist pesticides is a source of prosperity, as companies claim, or of birth defects and illnesses

By Christopher Pala in Waimea for The Guardian

Pediatrician Carla Nelson remembers catching sight of the unusually pale newborn, then hearing an abnormal heartbeat through the stethoscope and thinking that something was terribly wrong.

The baby was born minutes before with a severe heart malformation that would require complex surgery. What worried her as she waited for the ambulance plane to take the infant from Waimea, on the island of Kauai, to the main children’s hospital in Honolulu, on another Hawaiian island, was that it was the fourth one shehad seen in three years.

In all of Waimea, there have been at least nine in five years, she says, shaking her head. That’s more than 10 times the national rate, according to analysis by local doctors.

Nelson, a Californian, and other local doctors find themselves in the eye of a storm swirling for the past three years around the Hawaiian archipelago over whether a major cash crop on four of the six main islands, corn that’s been genetically modified to resist pesticides, is a source of prosperity, as the companies claim – or of birth defects and illnesses, as the doctors and many others suspect.

After four separate attempts to rein in the companies over the past two years all failed, an estimated 10,000 people marched on 9 August through Honolulu’s Waikiki tourist district. Some signs like, “We Deserve the Right to Know: Stop Poisoning Paradise” and “Save Hawaii – Stop GMOs” (Genetically Modified Organisms), while others protested different issues.

“The turnout and the number of groups marching showed how many people are very frustrated with the situation,” says native Hawaiian activist Walter Ritte of the island of Molokai.

Seventeen times more pesticide
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Waimea and the GMO fields. The two orange-roof buildings at bottom left are the Middle School. The one to its right is the hospital. Photograph: Christopher Pala for the Guardian

Waimea, a small town of low, pastel wood houses built in south-west Kauai for plantation workers in the 19th century, now sustains its economy mostly from a trickle of tourists on their way to a spectacular canyon. Perhaps 200 people work full-time for the four giant chemical companies that grow the corn – all of it exported – on some 12,000 acres leased mostly from the state.

In Kauai, chemical companies Dow, BASF, Syngenta and DuPont spray 17 times more pesticide per acre (mostly herbicides, along with insecticides and fungicides) than on ordinary cornfields in the US mainland, according to the most detailed study of the sector.

That’s because they are precisely testing the strain’s resistance to herbicides that kill other plants. About a fourth of the total are called Restricted Use Pesticides because of their harmfulness. Just in Kauai, 18 tons – mostly atrazine, paraquat (both banned in Europe) and chlorpyrifos – were applied in 2012. The World Health Organization this year announced that glyphosate, sold as Roundup, the most common of the non-restricted herbicides, is “probably carcinogenic in humans”.

The cornfields lie above Waimea as the land, developed in the 1870s for the Kekaha Sugar Company plantation, slopes gently up toward arid, craggy hilltops. Most fields are reddish-brown and perfectly furrowed. Some parts are bright green: that’s when the corn is actually grown.

Both parts are sprayed frequently, sometimes every couple of days. Most of the fields lie fallow at any given time as they await the next crop, but they are still sprayed with pesticides to keep anything from growing. “To grow either seed crops or test crops, you need soil that’s essentially sterile,” says professor Hector Valenzuela of the University of Hawaii department of tropical plant and soil science.

When the spraying is underway and the wind blows downhill from the fields to the town – a time no spraying should occur – residents complain of stinging eyes, headaches and vomiting.

“Your eyes and lungs hurt, you feel dizzy and nauseous. It’s awful,” says middle school special education teacher Howard Hurst, who was present at two evacuations. “Here, 10% of the students get special-ed services, but the state average is 6.3%,” he says. “It’s hard to think the pesticides don’t play a role.”

At these times, many crowd the waiting rooms of the town’s main hospital, which was run until recently by Dow AgroSciences’ former chief lobbyist in Honolulu. It lies beside the middle school, both 1,700ft from Syngenta fields. The hospital, built by the old sugar plantation, has never studied the effects of the pesticides on its patients.

The chemical companies that grow the corn in land previously used for sugar refuse to disclose with any precision which chemicals they use, where and in what amounts, but they insist the pesticides are safe, and most state and local politicians concur. “The Hawai‘i legislature has never given the slightest indication that it intended to regulate genetically engineered crops,” wrote lawyer Paul Achitoff of Earthjustice in a recent court case.

As for the birth defects spike, “We have not seen any credible source of statistical health information to support the claims,” said Bennette Misalucha, executive director of Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, the chemical companies trade association, in a written statement distributed by a publicist. She declined to be interviewed.

Nelson, the pediatrician, points out that American Academy of Pediatrics’ report, Pesticide Exposure in Children, found “an association between pesticides and adverse birth outcomes, including physical birth defects”. Noting that local schools have been evacuated twice and children sent to hospital because of pesticide drift, Nelson says doctors need prior disclosure of sprayings: “It’s hard to treat a child when you don’t know which chemical he’s been exposed to.”

Her concerns and those of most of her colleagues have grown as the chemical companies doubled to 25,000 acres in a decade the area in Hawaii they devote to growing new varieties of herbicide-resistant corn.

Today, about 90% of industrial GMO corn grown in the US was originally developed in Hawaii, with the island of Kauai hosting the biggest area. The balmy weather yields three crops a year instead of one, allowing the companies to bring a new strain to market in a third of the time.

Once it’s ready, the same fields are used to raise seed corn, which is sent to contract farms on the mainland. It is their output, called by critics a pesticide delivery system, that is sold to the US farmers, along with the pesticides manufactured by the breeder that each strain has been modified to tolerate.

Corn’s uses are as industrial as its cultivation: less than 1% is eaten. About 40% is turned into ethanol for cars, 36% becomes cattle feed, 10% is used by the food industry and the rest is exported.

‘We just want to gather information’

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A march against pesticides in Hawaii. Photograph: Christopher Pala for the Guardian

At a Starbucks just outside Honolulu, Sidney Johnson, a pediatric surgeon at the Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children who oversees all children born in Hawaii with major birth defects and operates on many, says he’s been thinking about pesticides a lot lately. The reason: he’s noticed that the number of babies born here with their abdominal organs outside, a rare condition known as gastroschisis, has grown from three a year in the 1980s to about a dozen now.

“We have cleanest water and air in the world,” he says. So he’s working with a medical student on a study of his hospital’s records to determine whether the parents of the gastroschisis infants were living near fields that were being sprayed around the time of conception and early pregnancy. He plans to extend the study to parents of babies suffering from heart defects.

“You kind of wonder why this wasn’t done before,” he says. “Data from other states show there might be a link, and Hawaii might be the best place to prove it.”

Unbeknownst to Johnson, another two physicians have been heading in the same direction, but with some constraints. They’re members of a state-county commission appointed this year to “determine if there are human harms coming from these pesticides”, as its chairman, a professional facilitator named Peter Adler, tells a meeting of angry local residents in Waimea earlier this month. Several express skepticism that the panel is anything but another exercise in obfuscation.

The panel of nine part-time volunteers also includes two scientists from the chemical companies and several of their critics. “We just want to gather information and make some recommendations,” Adler tells the crowd of about 60 people. “We won’t be doing any original research.”

But one of the two doctors, a retired pediatrician named Lee Evslin, plans to do just that. “I want see if any health trends stand out among people that might have been exposed to pesticides,” he says in an interview. “It won’t be a full epidemiological study, but it will probably be more complete than anything that’s been done before.”

The panel itself, called the Joint Fact-Finding Study Group on Genetically Modified Crops and Pesticides on Kauaʻi, is the only achievement of three years of failed attempts to force the companies to disclose in advance what they spray and to create buffer zones – which they do in 11 other states, where food crops receive much less pesticides per acre.

The pushback from the expansion of the GMO acreage first emerged when Gary Hooser of Kauai, a former state senate majority leader who failed in a bid for lieutenant governor in 2010, ran for his old seat on the Kauai County council in 2012.

“Everywhere I went, people were concerned about GMOs and pesticides. They were saying, ‘Gary, we gotta do something’,” he recounts over coffee at the trendy Ha Coffee Bar in Lihue, the island’s capital. “Some were worried about the GMO process itself and others by the threats of the pesticides, and it became one of the dominant political issues.”

Once elected, Hooser, who has a ruddy complexion, piercing blue eyes and arrived in Hawaii as a teenager from California, approached the companies for information about exactly what they were spraying and in what amounts. He was rebuffed.

In the process of what he called “doing my homework”, he discovered that the companies, unlike regular farmers, were operating under a decades-old Environmental Protection Agency permit to discharge toxic chemicals in water that had been grandfathered from the days of the sugar plantation, when the amounts and toxicities of pesticides were much lower. The state has asked for a federal exemption for the companies so they can avoid modern standards of compliance.

Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 1.00.38 PMHe also found that the companies, unlike regular farmers, don’t pay the 4% state excise tax. Some weren’t even asked to pay property taxes, worth $125,000 a year. After pressure from Hooser and the county tax office, the companies paid two years’ worth of back taxes.

So with the backing of three other members of the seven-member Kauai council, he drafted a law requiring the companies to disclose yearly what they had grown and where, and to announce in advance which pesticides they proposed to spray, where and when. The law initially also imposed a moratorium on the chemical companies expanding their acreage while their environmental impact was assessed.

After a series of hearings packed by company employees and their families wearing blue and opponents wearing red, the bill was watered down by eliminating the moratorium and reducing the scope of the environmental study. The ordinance then passed, but the companies sued in federal court, where a judge ruled that the state’s law on pesticides precluded the counties from regulating them. After the ruling, the state and the county created the joint fact-finding panel officially committed to conducting no new research.

Hooser is confident the ruling will be overturned on appeal: the Hawaii constitution “specifically requires” the state and the counties to protect the communities and their environment.

In his appeal, Achitoff of Earthjustice argued that Hawaii’s general pesticide law does not “demonstrate that the legislature intended to force the county to sit and watch while its schoolchildren are being sent to the hospital so long as state agencies do not remedy the problem.”

In the Big Island, which is called Hawaii and hosts no GMO corn, a similar process unfolded later in 2013: the county council passed a law that effectively banned the chemical companies from moving in, and it was struck down in federal court for the same reasons. A ban on genetically modified taro, a food root deemed sacred in Hawaiian mythology, was allowed to stand.

In Maui County, which includes the islands of Maui and Molokai, both with large GMO corn fields, a group of residents calling themselves the Shaka Movement sidestepped the company-friendly council and launched a ballot initiative that called for a moratorium on all GMO farming until a full environmental impact statement is completed there.

The companies, primarily Monsanto, spent $7.2m on the campaign ($327.95 per “no” vote, reported to be the most expensive political campaign in Hawaii history) and still lost.

Again, they sued in federal court, and, a judge found that the Maui County initiative was preempted by federal law. Those rulings are also being appealed.

In the state legislature in Honolulu, Senator Josh Green, a Democrat who then chaired the health committee, earlier this year attempted a fourth effort at curbing the pesticide spraying.

In the legislature, he said, it’s an open secret that most heads of the agriculture committee have had “a closer relationship with the agro-chemical companies than with the environmental groups”.

Green, an emergency room doctor who was raised in Pennsylvania, drafted legislation to mandate some prior disclosure and some buffer zones. “I thought that was a reasonable compromise,” he says. Still, he also drafted a weaker bill as a failsafe. “If even that one doesn’t pass, it’s going to be obvious that the state doesn’t have the political will to stand up to the chemical companies,” he said in a phone interview at the time. “That would be terrible.”

The chairman of the senate agricultural committee, Cliff Tsuji, didn’t even bring the weaker bill to a vote, even though Hawaii’s governor had pledged to sign any bill that created buffer zones.

Asked by email what he would do now, Green replied with a quip: “Drink scotch.”

This report was supported by a grant from the Fund for Investigative Journalism.

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