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POSTED: Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Handi-Van riders to apply via talk

Applying for eligibility to ride TheHandi-Van will now be done by face-to-face interviews, giving applicants an opportunity to explain their circumstances.

The previous eligibility system relied solely on written information. Under the new system, coordinators will conduct a free in-person assessment of applicants, including those renewing eligibility.

TheHandi-Van is a paratransit service for people with disabilities.

Assessments will be done at a new TheHandi-Van Eligibility Center at the First Insurance Center, 1100 Ward Ave., Suite 835, open 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Applicants can bring an assistant. For more information, call the Department of Transportation Services paratransit staff at 768-8300.

Budget release for furloughs sought

A group of seven lawmakers is asking Gov. Linda Lingle to release restrictions on money budgeted to the Department of Education to fund public school days being lost on Furlough Fridays.

In a letter sent to the governor yesterday, the House and Senate members say they understand that easing the restrictions could affect the overall budget.

“;While we probably differ with you on how to address the additional budget gap created by eliminating furlough Fridays, we believe the best way to handle those differences is in the regular budget process,”; the letter states.

The letter was signed by state Sen. Carol Fukunaga and state Reps. Karl Rhoads, Glenn Wakai, K. Mark Takai, Gil Keith-Agaran, Joe Bertram and Sylvia Luke.

House Finance Chairman Marcus Oshiro had made a similar proposal last month.

Meanwhile, Lingle and the Hawaii State Teachers Association are scheduled to meet today to try and end the stalemate over Furlough Fridays.

The governor has proposed restoring the school days through $50 million from the state Rainy Day Fund and a conversion of teacher training days to workdays. The HSTA has balked at the conversion of nonclassroom days, saying they are essential for teacher preparation.

Tam throws in hat for mayoral race

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City Councilman Rod Tam has officially joined the race for Honolulu mayor and now joins three other declared candidates hoping the contest will take place in 2010.

The field is awaiting word on whether incumbent Mufi Hannemann will give up his final two years in office for a run at the governor's office. Hannemann has made no announcement, but had formed an exploratory committee.

Tam announced his candidacy Sunday at a news conference at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen statue at the Chinese Cultural Plaza in Chinatown.

Other declared candidates for the mayor's office next year are city Prosecutor Peter Carlisle, city Managing Director Kirk Caldwell and City Councilman Donovan Dela Cruz.

Tam and Dela Cruz are in their second terms in the City Council and barred from running again due to term limits.

Reward in arrow attack on cows

HILO » The Hawaii Cattlemen's Association is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for shooting two pregnant cows with arrows.

The animals belonging to Hualalai Ranch had to be euthanized. Ranch manager Frank Boteilho says each cow was valued at about $1,000.

The first cow was found wounded Nov. 20. The second was discovered last Tuesday. Police believe both were shot in November.

Police have opened an animal cruelty investigation.

Officer Courtney Bello says the arrows the cows were hit with appear to be designed for hunting.

Legalized pot to be debated on Big Island

HILO » A resolution to ask the Legislature to decriminalize marijuana is to be debated by the Hawaii County Council.

The resolution to be discussed today was authored by North Kona Councilman Kelly Greenwell.

It says that “;marijuana should be decriminalized and not treated as an illicit substance.”;

Greenwell says it is not so much about marijuana, as about criminal activity associated with what he calls a “;harmless”; drug.

He says having marijuana illegal only drives up the price on the black market, enticing organized crime to take it over.

If approved, copies of the resolution would be sent to the Honolulu, Maui and Kauai Councils in hopes they can pass similar resolutions and approach the Legislature together to ask for a new law.