BLNR Refuses to Replace Telescope Hearing Officer
Rail: Taxpayers Robbed of $1.88B and Counting
Who’s Running: Candidates Pulling Papers as of May 6, 2016
Homelessness: U.S. VETS selected for Honolulu Housing First initiative
Feds withhold a half-billion dollars for rail over stalled financial plan
KHON: …Last fall, the Federal Transit Administration told Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell it wasn’t going to release last fiscal year’s installment until the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation submitted an updated financial plan. Now, they tell Always Investigating that they’re holding back a second year’s worth, because the plan still isn’t in….
Officials are waiting for three key things: a revised project cost estimate, schedule, and financial plan that shows enough in other funds to cover the cost.
“Until FTA receives and approves a revised project cost estimate, schedule, and financial plan which includes a commitment of all of the local funds needed to cover that cost estimate, FTA cannot award the FY2015 or FY2016 increments of New Starts funds under the terms of the Full Funding Grant Agreement,” FTA told Always Investigating in a statement….
The FTA says it thinks HART’s plan is coming soon. But even when it gets it, there could be another catch. FTA says the plan has to show enough money to cover the whole cost of the project.
“They can’t send in the financial plan, because they can’t account for all this money they’re supposed to have,” Kobayashi said.
“Because they don’t know the final cost at the end?” Always Investigating asked.
“Yes, and we don’t know how much money is in there. We don’t know how much contingency there is. We don’t know what future expenses have to be paid,” she said, pointing to unresolved costs Always Investigating has previously exposed such as power supply, utility line undergrounding, and other unknown expenses and bids yet to come.
The recent general excise tax extension passed only guaranteed another $1.1 billion in locally generated revenue, which HART previously said might not be enough to cover the entire cost. (Translation: We want another tax hike.)
Always Investigating asked HART how it’s paying the bills cash-flow-wise without the $500 million the feds have paused.
“We still have about 13 percent of our FY13 funding and all of our FY14 funding still available to pay bills,” HART spokesman Bill Brennan said. (Translation: ‘We’re swimming in taxpayer dollars.’)
PBN: Hannemann excited by rail progress
read … Withhold
Engineering experts raise quality concerns over Honolulu’s rail construction
KHON: …according to HART’s own data, it’s logged 1,191 of what’s called non-conformance reports (NCRs) so far.
HART says as of today, there are about 130 open NCRs that have yet to be resolved….
“It’s a lot. It’s a tremendous number, and it tells you that something is very, very wrong,” said Douglas Tilden, who has worked on large rail and transit projects around the world besides Honolulu, “As to what could be a fatal flaw, Lord only knows, but when you get into a position where you’ve got that many NCRs, you’ve got a problem.”…
HART has revealed the biggest problems have had to do with concrete, the stuff all 20 miles of the rail system will be made of. It says nearly 30 percent of the West Oahu NCRs have been related to casting problems, concrete voids, even spalling.
“That is not common. That is way too many,” Prevedouros said of the concrete problems. “I think in some areas, they are rushing so much, they don’t give enough time for quality control.”…
“It’s very, very difficult when you get into a position like you’re in with significant technical problems. It’s a mess,” Tilden said.
… it’s about 1,000 non-conformance reports and we’re only out to the west and Pearl City area….
The Federal Transit Administration confirmed to Always Investigating that projects are allowed to make changes. But at what expense to the federal share of funds?
“If any modifications are proposed, it will need to evaluate them before determining the impact on the federal funding,” the FTA said in a statement….
“Twenty-some cities and none of them, none of them chose an all-elevated system,” Tilden said of other recent U.S. rail projects. “All of them only had at most had very short segments of the alignment elevated to get over highways, rivers, what have you.”….
read … Engineering experts raise quality concerns over Honolulu’s rail construction
Vote by Mail Bill Dies in Conference
HTH: …House Bill 1653 would have required the state Office of Elections to start a vote-by-mail program incrementally, beginning on Kauai.
HB 401 would have required residents to register to vote when renewing their driver’s license unless they opt out….
read … Dead
Contested Case Hearings Go Directly to State Supreme Court
HTH: A bill creating a petty misdemeanor for trespassing on state land failed to get to a final vote this legislative session…
Senate Bill 2816 would have created an offense of trespassing on state lands for people remaining unlawfully on land that is closed to the public when there are signs providing notice….
Lawmakers did pass a separate bill seen as connected to the telescope issues.
That bill would allow appeals of contested case hearings with statewide importance to be taken directly to the state Supreme Court.
The $1.4 billion TMT project is currently preparing to go through a second contested case hearing for a land use permit after the high court ruled BLNR wrongfully voted for the project before the first hearing was held….
read … Supreme
Kauai Council Rejects Tax Hikes
KGI: …Two proposed bills to increase taxes were voted down during the Kauai County Council meeting Wednesday.
The bills, which would raise vehicle weight tax and fuel tax were introduced by Councilmember JoAnn Yukimura as a possible solution for funding $100 million worth of backlogged road repairs.
“I introduced both bills, not because I want to raise taxes, but because we must fix our roads,” she said. “If we don’t fix them, the cost of fixing them gets larger and larger, and we will have to pay for repairs to our cars due to bad roads.”
On Wednesday, the council voted 5-2 against Bill No. 2630, which aimed to increase fuel tax by 2 cents, starting July 1, 2016, and an additional 2 cents on July 1, 2017.
Saying they needed to explore other options to generate revenue, Councilmembers Gary Hooser, Ross Kagawa, Arryl Kaneshiro, KipuKai Kauali’i and Mel Rapozo voted to receive, or kill, the bill.
read … No New Taxes
Maui County Wants AirBnB to Enforce TVR Ordinances
MN: Maui County officials have mixed feelings over a potential state law that would allow transient accommodations brokers such as Airbnb to collect state taxes from rental operators and ensure the operators know that they must adhere to land-use laws.
House Bill 1850, which recently passed at the state Legislature, allows transient accommodations or vacation rental brokers to register as tax collection agents on behalf of all of their operators and plan managers. The brokers also must obtain licenses, as a tax collection agent, to collect state general excise and transient accommodations taxes from advertisers on their websites. The tax collection agents must ensure that the vacation rental is in compliance with all state and county land-use laws.
Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway are some of the major vacation rental companies operating in Hawaii. They advertise vacation rental properties worldwide through their websites, according to a Hospitality Advisors report released last week. Early results from 2015 show that the average per-person daily expenditure of $274 for Airbnb guests in Hawaii was much higher when compared to the same figure for guests staying at all other accommodations. For hotels, the average daily spending was $230; for condominiums the daily average was $166.
While the bill focuses on ensuring that owners of the accommodations pay general excise and transient accommodations taxes, some legislators and the Maui County Planning Department had wanted the bill to go further in ensuring compliance with land-use laws and stopping unpermitted accommodations - a longtime problem in Maui County.
After legal reviews, the bill is headed to Gov. David Ige's desk. During a news conference this week, Ige said that it was too early for him to say what action he'd take on bills passed by the state Legislature in the 2016 session, which ended Thursday. But, he said that vacation rental enforcement should be left up the counties.
Maui County Deputy Planning Director Michele Chouteau McLean said that by having general excise and transient accommodations tax licenses and paying these taxes, vacation rental operators may mistakenly believe they are in "full compliance" with the law.
"We had hoped the 'tax collection agents' would play a more active role in ensuring compliance with local land use regulations," she said in an email….
read … Won’t do it themselves
IBEW 1260 Union Boss Thrown Out by International
HNN: The leadership of IBEW Local 1260, which represents more than 6,000 electrical and electronics workers, has been placed in administratorship by its national office, Hawaii News Now has learned….
The union has been led by Brian Ahakuelo, business manager and financial secretary, who had been under fire for his relatives and excessive salaries.
Administratorship usually means that the local leaders have been replaced or will be supervised by leaders appointed by the International union until a new election can be held.
read … IBEW
Peter Savio Among those not Running for For Honolulu Mayor?
CB: …Savio, 67, is president and CEO of the Savio Group of Companies and has decades of experience in real estate development and sales in Hawaii.
He said he’s been approached by folks around the island to consider challenging Mayor Kirk Caldwell.
“It’s because of how I look at things,” he said Friday. “I have different solutions and I see different problems.”
Savio said he is not a politician and does not see himself officially joining the race.
“In the end, there are so many other people better than me,” he said. (And they’re not running either.)
read … Not Running
Kalihi: Homosexual Child Molester Gets 20 Years for Kiddie Porn
KHON: ….Florence T. Nakakuni, United States Attorney for the District of Hawaii, said that according to information produced in court, Kormanik’s home computer contained more than 3,000 images and more than 400 videos of child pornography, and an IP address associated with Kormanik on a peer-to-peer file sharing network also had images of child pornography.
Kormanik faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years because he had a prior conviction for sexual assault of a minor, related to his repeated sexual abuse of a 10-year-old boy. He also admitted having previously sexually abused two other young boys.
During the sentencing proceedings, Judge Helen Gillmor expressed serious concern that Kormanik had recently been spending significant time with young boys who lived in his neighborhood, and that he had provided them with marijuana….
read … Homosexual Child Molester
Politicians, Sierra Club Help Schemers Sell Overpriced Batteries to Unwary Consumers
CB: Gov. David Ige, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, state Rep. Chris Lee and three dozen others gathered Friday afternoon at a Maunalani Heights home overlooking Diamond Head for what was deemed a “historical moment” in Hawaii’s energy world.
Sunrun, a residential solar company (known mostly for giving lots and lots of money to the national Democrats), announced the first completed installation of its Sunrun BrightBox energy storage system in the state. The Tesla battery holds solar power captured during the day so that it can be used at night.
“This is the next step in the solar revolution,” said Anthony Aalto, whose home will now be powered 80 percent to 90 percent by the sun while still being connected to the grid for those cloudy days….
read … Consumer Rip Off