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Friday, July 10, 2015
July 10, 2015 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:06 PM :: 4035 Views

GOP: No-Clout Delegation Can't Get The Job Done for Hawaii

Europe, Manhattan, Puerto Rico all Demand Jones Act Reform

Schatz: Obama Admin will Take up Hawaiian Tribal Recognition

KGI: Schatz: Congress won’t take up tribal question--Senator says Obama administration will take up native Hawaiian recognition

Schatz, a member of the Committee on Indian Affairs, said efforts to gain tribal recognition for native Hawaiians are not likely to make headway in Congress, and that Hawaii’s delegation has decided the better approach is to work with the Obama administration.

“The law allows for it, we have a president that understands Hawaii and the native Hawaiians, and we’re hoping the Department of the Interior will proceed with good pace,” Schatz said.

He added he does not support the Hawaii independence movement and he believes Hawaii should remain the country’s 50th state.

read ... Spills the Beans

Schofield Barracks and Fort Shafter will lose 1,400 soldiers, Stryker Brigade -- 17,000 Civilian Cuts Pending--Takai Says 'Good News'

SA: Schofield Barracks will experience a net reduction of 1,214 soldiers with the Stryker change, a 25th Infantry Division and garrison headquarters reduction, and inactivation of explosive ordnance disposal and quartermaster field service companies, the Army said.

The division will retain a 14,500-soldier strength in Hawaii, which is lower than the total of 16,900 soldiers before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to the service.

At Fort Shafter, force structure changes include reducing military and civilian positions in the Army Corps of Engineers and in a contract support battalion, but also the activation of an air defense brigade headquarters, with a net reduction of 229 soldiers, according to the Army. Fort Shafter will wind up with 2,004 soldiers, according to Hawaii’s congressional delegation.

Additionally, the Army is cutting 17,000 civilian employees, but where those cuts will occur is not clear....

”Any cut to our force structure in Hawaii is not good, but in light of the worst-case scenarios that we were hearing six months ago, today’s news is actually good.” -- U.S. Rep. Mark Takai

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who also is on the House Armed Services Committee, said the decision to cut 40,000 soldiers “wasn’t made with the best strategic interest of our country in mind, nor what’s in the best interest of our troops.”

read ... Good News from your All Democrat Delegation

Rail property buy up faces time, cost challenges

KHON: The rail project is getting into more congested residential and business areas, but to get the train going, some property owners will have to sell, and that’s getting more and more expensive and complicated.

A federal watchdog is expressing concern about the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) being behind schedule on land buys. Well over 100 deals with private and government entities still have to be made. Always Investigating dug into where and why it’s getting bogged down, and what it could cost taxpayers....

At least 38 once privately-owned homes and businesses have felt the impact (36 identified by HART at a May 2015 board presentation, plus another two more parcels disclosed to KHON2 as of the broadcast of this story). Buying those places set taxpayers back more than $71 million for the properties and another $7.5 million in relocation costs.

Always Investigating scoured the list of more than 230 properties originally identified as being in rail’s path, and so far HART only controls 83 of them. Another are going through condemnation, a forced taking in court....

Bumping up against land-buy delays, the federal government allowed HART to invoke what’s called an “irrevocable right of entry” on land it’s eyeing but doesn’t have yet, so it can get onsite before purchase or condemnation and get going with construction.

“Completed acquisitions are not required for construction to move forward as scheduled,” HART said in a statement to KHON2....

“It’s a dynamic process,” Murakami said. “There are very unique physical aspects of land in the town area with underground streams and utility tunnels we don’t know about. Even if the landowners aren’t currently slated for acquisition, it could definitely change as construction proceeds through this area.”

read ... Railroaded

Incompetence Pays: Elections commission approves 12.5% pay raise for chief election officer

KHON: The state elections commission voted Thursday to increase Scott Nago’s salary from $80,000 to $90,000.

Of the nine members on the board, seven voted in favor of the raise, one voted against and one abstained.

SA: the commission voted Thursday to interview the only person who submitted an application to replace Marston as commission chairman: Jeffrey Kuwada, former Maui County clerk

read ... Incompetence Pays

Ige: State Will Set up Homeless Tent City in Neighborhood Near You

Ige said he knows the homeless won't go to remote areas, far from bus routes, shops and schools, so the state is trying to find convenient locations for the shelters.

Ige said the state is studying about 20 state-owned properties from downtown Honolulu out to Waipahu as potential homeless shelter sites.

Ige said could not offer a timetable or details on where the shelters will be located, how they will operate or how much they would cost taxpayers. He said they would have basic toilet and shower facilities.

"Building housing or shelters, even, is not something that happens instantaneously.  There are permitting and other issues that need to be resolved before we move forward," Ige said.

Ige said the homeless shelters could potentially be located on state-owned property across the island, beyond Waipahu....

As Explained: Homeless tent cities: Seattle’s decade-long nightmare coming to Honolulu?

read ... Disaster

Talk up Homeless Tent Cities because Tent City in Kakaako is 'Unacceptable'

KITV: "I really would like to look at the Next Step Shelter only because that would be close to people's workplace and schools," said Sen. Suzie Chun- Oakland. (Plus copper.  Lots of copper.)

But there has yet to be buy-in from the landowner-- the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, or the Waikiki Health Center, which runs the shelter.

Liability could be a major hurdle. The shelter already houses 200 homeless....

The city stopped its sidewalk enforcement actions in Kakaako last fall to focus on other areas around Oahu, (force the crisis) though the mayor said he planned to meet with the governor Thursday afternoon.

"We are not going to give up. We are going to see what we can do as quickly as we can," said Caldwell.

Meanwhile, Sen. Will Espero is proposing turning part of Sand Island State Park into a temporary homeless campsite, even though deed restrictions may not allow it....

Meanwhile Chun-Oakland says the City Council is considering a parcel off Nimitz highway as another possible site to house the homeless.

read ... Moving the Problem People Around

Telescope Protests: Threats, Vandalism, and Feces

KITV: These logs highlight daily events on Mauna Kea dating back to March, revealing that some protesters – not all – have been threatening people’s lives, vandalizing property, stealing property and hurting tourism.

There have even been threats to “suicide bomb TMT” and promote armed resistance to the project. “TMT should be crippled” and “kill the visitors” were also among these threats.

It’s the reason why the visitor’s station has been shut down for two weeks.

Kaho'okahi Kanuha, who leads those whom these allegations are targeting, says for that for the most part, the accusations are not true.

“Most of it, I don’t believe. I haven’t seen it. I don’t believe it happened, and I think it’s just another weak and shameful attempt by the State of Hawaii to change the public perception of what’s going on up on Mauna Kea because everything has been pono,” said Kanuha.

The logs also reveal that the restrooms at the visitor’s station have been covered in feces. In addition, they claim that there’s been items stolen from property and that employees of the place feel threatened.

read ... Hostile

Emails Outline Strategy to Defeat Telescope Protesters

HTH: Case’s email also outlined steps for dealing with the permanent camp, known among protesters as the Aloha Safety Check, located across the street from the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station.

“Notify the campers, today if possible, that their camping is a violation under the Forest Reserve rules and illegal under the rules governing public hunting areas, and we will move forward with administrative remedies including fines, removal of structures, and if necessary arrests if they don’t move off the mountain by ___,” Case wrote.

Other recommendations included posting signs providing notice of towing, notifying Kona Lua that it must remove its unauthorized portable toilets from the mountain or face administrative penalties, and pursuing a memorandum of agreement between DLNR and the County of Hawaii.

“I would suggest our legitimate goal is to keep the mountain open to normal activities,” Case wrote to Chin. “Cessation of unlawful activities while protecting free speech and traditional and customary practices would be the path to that goal.” ...

On June 29, Deputy Attorney General Linda Chow wrote to Chin and outlined a proposal that Wynhoff described in a later email as “potentially a real home run.”

Chow said she met with DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife personnel and “picked their brains about our dilemma of the Mauna Kea road.”

“The acting administrator (Scott Fretz) said that we might be able to temporarily close or restrict access to the road under the Game Mammal Hunting rules,” she wrote.

Subsequently, Fretz’ submittal asks the Lands Board to adopt a new section under Hawaii Administrative Rules Title 13, Chapter 123, which regulate game mammal hunting.

If passed, the new rules would prohibit backpacks, blankets and other “obvious camping paraphernalia” and limit the hours during which individuals could remain in a designated restricted area within 1 mile of Mauna Kea Access Road....

read ... Strategy

American Samoa Remains Free of Gay Marriage

AP: American Samoa stands as the only U.S. territory to hold out against the recent Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage.

But as the Pacific island's attorney general reviews the decision, legal observers and gay rights advocates are saying it should go into effect immediately.

"It should be unquestioned," said Rose Cuison Villazor, a professor at University of California, Davis' law school and an 'expert' on territorial law.  (How dare you question us.  We are your masters.  On your knees, peasants!)

American Samoa Attorney General Talauega Eleasalo Ale, however, hasn't been ready to take that step.

"We're still reviewing the decision to determine its applicability to American Samoa, and I have no specific comments at this time," he said.

Asked if same sex marriage is legal in the territory, Ale said, "I don't know. We're reviewing the law."

U.S. territories have some self-governance rights  (especially Am Samoa, see below).

Totally Related: American Samoans don’t have right to U.S. citizenship, court rules

read ... Still Free

Hawaii's plastic bag ban may have just made things worse--so lets make it even worse

PST: On July 1, Hawaii became the first state to ban single use plastic bags, which are some of the worst culprits behind the massive swaths of trash that roam the oceans, among other environmental nightmares.

The ban is supposed to help chip away at the nearly 3.4 million plastic bags and wraps the U.S. throws away each year.

Sounds like a good thing, right? It would be, except a loophole in the law basically undermines the entire thing, and companies are now using plastic bags that are actually worse for the environment than what the bill aimed to ban....

read ... Make it even worse

State still needs to process nearly 8,000 tax refund requests

HNN: For many taxpayers patience is running out.

"It's ridiculous.  I can see a month maybe even two months but from February til now," said Angela Kan Hai.

Kan Hai's son Austin just entered the work force last year.  The 19-year-old got a job with Maui County's Summer Pals Program.

"He's only getting back $139 but for a college kid that's a lot.  We've called back and called back. It rings and rings and rings or it's busy, busy, busy."

Austin's not alone.  State officials say more than 7,800 refund requests still need to be processed.  Officials say they hope to have the bulk of that knocked out in the next couple weeks.  The state has until July 20 to issue tax refunds before having to tack on interest....

"This year we put in a lot more reviews.  Different types of reviews to try and catch this on the front in," said Fujitani.

As of June the state says those extra steps helped catch about 8600 fraudulent refund requests. That equals to more than $21 million that wasn't paid out to criminals....

read ... State still needs to process nearly 8,000 tax refund requests

Backlog prevents 386 EBT recipients from receiving taxpayer money for free stuff

HNN: ...Hawaii News Now found out Moline's friend was far from being alone.  As of Monday 386 people were in a similar situation.

DHS officials declined to go on camera but sent us a statement blaming the backlog on the center receiving an unusually high number of eligibility review forms coupled with the fact the department that deals with them is down three staff members.

"I would love those hard working people at Pohulani to get additional support or get somebody in have the director go in and observe and see what's going on and clean it up," said Moline.

This week DHS has managed to get through more than half the backlog.  Right now about 150 reviews are still pending.  Officials say in an effort to prevent future backlogs the center has implemented new processing procedures that will start next month....

read ... EBT Backlog

Kaiser and Hawaii Pacific in dance to be Maui hospital partner

MN: Kaiser Permanente and Hawaii Pacific Health are the only health care entities in the running to form a partnership with Maui County's three public hospitals, including Maui Memorial Medical Center, a hospital official said Thursday....

The last day to submit a statement of interest was July 2. The two companies now have until the end of August to provide more information on their proposals, Lo said....

Thanks to HGEA, Maui County's three hospitals are facing a multimillion-dollar shortfall this fiscal year that began July 1....

read ... Partner

Elderly poor face bleaker future thanks to HGEA

SA: For the elderly poor in Hawaii, the prospects for high-quality long-term care have never been good. But it’s getting worse: Leahi and Maluhia hospitals, which serve Medicare and Medicaid patients, announced that budget deficits will force them to lay off 64 workers and close two skilled nursing wings (in order to pay for HGEA contract).

It’s been projected that 1 out of 5 Hawaii residents will be 65 or older by 2030, so there’s little doubt that more of Hawaii’s elderly will need expensive long-term care, but will be too poor to pay for it....

SA: The new state health director aims to fix “system issues” that have inhibited a healthier Hawaii

read ... Thanks HGEA

70 Priors by Age 37: Out on the Streets Doing More Crimes after 2013 Shootout with Police

KITV: A career criminal known for fighting with police is back in jail and this time, he's expected to remain there for awhile.

He's called the Gingerbread Man -- because he always tries to get away.

Amery Kahale-Sugimura was arrested Tuesday at the Tesoro Gas Station in Kalihi.  Police sources say he was on a stolen motorcycle when Honolulu Police SWAT officers showed up to grab him for an abuse case.    

The 37-year old was already out on bail for a violent encounter with police in 2013 where he ended up getting shot. 

Police were trying to pull him over on a stolen motorcycle in Aiea, near Alvah Scott Elementary School.  When he crashed, he allegedly broke into an elderly couple's home to try to get away from officers.  He's accused of then, stealing the couple's pickup truck.  When he was cornered he allegedly tried to run over the officers, who opened fire. 

Trial for that case is set for September....

The prosecutor in the 2013 case, Scott Spallina, did ask the judge to deny bail, but the judge refused and instead raised the bail amount. Sugimura was able to come up with the money and was released.

"It appears this person is able to come up with a large sum of money and cash when necessary to get out so he's being bankrolled," says Carlisle

read ... Soft on Crime

Hawaii Lawyers Nearly the Lowest Continuing Education Requirements in USA

BJ: The State Bar of California wants to increase continuing-education requirements for lawyers. One proposal would boost mandatory training by 44 percent.

It's about time, say some lawyers — because California ranks near the bottom of states that have mandatory requirements. Only Alaska and Hawaii require fewer hours, according the National Committee of Bar Examiners.

California requires active attorneys to take 25 hours of legal education classes every three years. Some states require 45.

“Twenty-five hours is pathetic.”

read ... Pathetic

Cab companies react to airport extortion investigation

HNN: Hawaii News Now interviewed several FBI informants, who said they made dozens of payments to private security guards working for state contractor Securitas. Cab companies that don't make payoffs said it's a well-known practice that needs to be curbed.

"It's just a common understanding on the curbside that if you work with certain companies, you will be allowed kickbacks," said Heather Forshner-Jensen, who works as a greeter at the airport for Charley's Taxi.

Forshner-Jensen said some guards allow competitors to remain at the airport's traffic islands beyond their allotted time, while her company's drivers are shooed away within minutes.

"I myself have taken photos of license plates and have timed them myself," she said. "I've stood next to this van and it's been parked for an hour, and when I asked, they said 'oh we know them, it's so and so.'"

Drivers and shuttle operators are allowed to park at the airport traffic islands for up to 15 minutes to wait for customers, who make reservations in advance.

According to one FBI informant, private security guards would harass drivers who don't make payments even before their allotted 15 minutes are up. Drivers who made the payments were allowed to stay longer, they said.

Cab companies and their drivers have grumbled for years about a culture of payoffs. But many declined to comment for the record for fear of retaliation.

One of the FBI's informants said the problem is rampant.

"They would pay the guards, give them iPhones, strong arm tactics," said "Lou," who videotaped nearly a dozen payoffs to security workers....

read ... Extortion

Law will exempt Hawaii homeowners from historic reviews of older houses

PBN: Gov. David Ige on Thursday will sign a bill into law that will exempt thousands of Hawaii homeowners from a law that subjects homes built more than 50 years ago to historic preservation reviews whenever homeowners apply for building permits.

House Bill 830, which was passed by state lawmakers during the 2015 session,creates an exemption from the review requirements for proposed projects at homes that are not designated on or nominated for the Hawaii Register of Historic Places or the National Register of Historic Places, and are not located in a historic district.

Nearly 40 percent of the existing homes on Oahu were built before 1970 and in certain areas, the percentage is as high as 85 percent.

read ... Exempt

Eco-Activists Sue to Shut Down Ocean Mining-But only by US Companies

HTH: The Center for Biological Diversity is suing the federal government on the claim that two exploratory permits — held by a subsidiary of the defense giant Lockheed Martin — in the Clipperton were renewed without proper environmental process. At the same time, researchers in a paper set to be published today in the journal Science are pointing to a network of provisional marine reserves in the area as a model that should be followed to balance mining and the environment as the push for undersea mineral exploitation moves head.

UH: UH Develops Strategy to Block Deep Sea Mining

read ... Only the US

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