POSTED: Friday, November 21, 2008

Texting-while-driving ban passes hurdle at City Council





The Big Q Extra: Safe Driving
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A measure to ban Oahu motorists from sending text messages or playing video games while driving gained early approval from a City Council committee yesterday.

The Transportation and Public Works Committee plans to tweak the bill to exempt emergency service and commercial drivers, such as police, ambulance and taxi drivers.

The city prosecutor's office noted that an existing state law on inattentive driving might cover text messaging and that this proposal would be difficult to enforce.

The bill needs to go through several more steps, including a public hearing at the City Council's Dec. 3 meeting.


Dead roots doom palace palms

The state will remove three coconut trees this weekend from the King Street side of Iolani Palace after they were assessed to be hazardous.

Arborist Abner Undan said he found that the coconut palm that fell Tuesday on a passing car on King Street failed because many of its roots were dead. He examined seven more coconut trees in that row and found three more with the same problems.

“;Coconut palms are real tough, and they have the ability to flex in the wind,”; Undan said.

However, he recommended these three be removed as soon as possible because of the bad weather forecast.

The state is planning to remove them this weekend. Undan said there are more than 100 coconut palms on the Iolani Palace grounds and that the state wants the other trees also to be inspected.


Court to hear Dems blast Lingle

The state Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments at 9 a.m. Dec. 4 on a motion brought by state Senate Democrats to force Republican Gov. Linda Lingle to name new members to the University of Hawaii Board of Regents.

Senate President Colleen Hanabusa and Education Chairman Norman Sakamoto are asking the court to order Lingle to fill six vacancies on the 15-member board that oversees the 10-campus public higher-education system in Hawaii.

Voters approved a change in the state Constitution to require the governor to choose new regent candidates from a list screened by a Regents Candidate Advisory Council.

Instead, Lingle “;held over”; regents Byron Bender, Michael Dahilig, Ramon de la Pena, Marlene Hapai, Jane Tatibouet and Kitty Lagareta, whose terms were expiring. Lagareta had been rejected by the state Senate for a new term on the board.

Hanabusa said yesterday the court's interest in the case is “;a very strong indication”; that they are sympathetic to the Senate's arguments.


Blackout hangs up phone service


;[Preview]  AT&T blackout

  Isle customers of the cellular carrier experience service problems. 


Watch  ]





  Local AT&T wireless customers suffered several hours of no phone service yesterday.

The interruption occurred at 6:45 a.m. Service was restored at 1:30 p.m.

Technicians are investigating the cause, said Courtney Pendleton, a San Diego-based spokeswoman for AT&T.

AT&T did determine the interruption was related to the power failure that affected thousands of residents in Pearl City, Central Oahu, Mililani, Mililani Mauka as well as parts of Aiea. AT&T's facilities are based in Mililani.

The electrical outage that lasted for a little more than an hour was caused by problems with transmission equipment at the Waiau power plant.

Affected customers will be able to obtain a one-day service credit. The credit amount will vary based on the customer's plan, said Pendleton.

Pendleton did not disclose the number of AT&T customers affected, due to policy reasons.

Customers may call 611 directly from their phone or call (800) 331-0500 to contact customer service.


Museum makes 'temporary' cuts

The Lyman Museum in Hilo will be closed for Thanksgiving week and will operate with smaller staff through June due to budget constraints.

The museum, which relies mostly on private donations, will not be making any permanent layoffs. Instead, there will be a revolving door of layoffs where up to three full-time employees will not work or get paid for certain periods of time. The museum employs 14.

“;At this point they will be temporary layoffs,”; said museum Director Dolly Strazar. “;We are trying to maintain our staff, and we've been doing a lot of cross-training to keep the museum open.”;

The announcement follows a string of layoffs by other Hawaii museums. The Honolulu Academy of Arts laid off eight people, the Contemporary Museum laid off more than half of its 48 employees and Bishop Museum laid off 14 of its workers.

The Lyman Museum also will open at 10 a.m. instead of 9:30. The museum will be closed from Monday through Nov. 30.