Full Text: FTA Statement on Rail—$8 Billion Dollars and 8 More Years
Rep Gene Ward Seeks Reelection to State House—Slom to File for Senate
Audit: DoE Claims to be ‘Financially Responsible’
Auditor: HTA Lacks Cohesive Marketing Plan
Big Q: When it comes to your health insurance, what’s been the most notable change?
Rail: Does Colbert Matsumoto Have Conflicts of Interest?
CB: …Local businessman Colbert Matsumoto, who was recently appointed to the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation board by Mayor Kirk Caldwell, has significant financial interests in several properties along the future rail line.
Matsumoto is founder and chairman of Tradewind Capital Group, a real estate investment firm that just last month purchased two properties along Queen Street in Kakaako adjacent to the rail route and within walking distance of a planned train station. The purchase came just five days before Caldwell announced Matsumoto’s appointment.
Tradewind also has owned two parcels at 925 Dillingham Blvd. since 2008, properties it bought for about $20 million. The Dillingham property is located next to the rail line between two nearby train stops. It is across the street from Honolulu Community College, and one of the parcels is slated to be the site of a future satellite city hall. The city is already paying Tradewind $1.8 million a year to lease the empty building as it is being renovated.
Profit potential for these commercial properties is considerable, especially as city and state officials push for more development around future rail stations, and would likely result in financial gains for Tradewind’s owners should Honolulu’s $6.9 billion project be completed as planned.
Matsumoto’s connections to the properties, which were not disclosed by Caldwell when he announced the appointment, raise questions about potential conflicts of interest involving the biggest public works project in Hawaii’s history.
Matsumoto is well known in the business community, and is connected to some of the state’s most influential political players.
In addition to his role at Tradewind, he is the executive chairman of Island Insurance Co., a trustee of the state Employees’ Retirement System and a director of Oahu Publications, parent company of Hawaii’s largest newspaper, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser….
read … Conflict of Interest
Charter Proposal Would Keep HART Away from Rail Operations and Maintenance
SA: …The city Department of Transportation Services would operate and maintain the Honolulu rail line, not the semi-autonomous Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, under a plan that Oahu voters might be asked to approve this fall.
The Honolulu Charter Commission’s four-member Transportation Permitted Interaction Group, chaired by commission member Kevin Mulligan, said in its seven- page report released Monday that all municipal transportation systems — TheBus, HandiVan and rail — should all fall under the DTS’ authority.
The group was critical in its conclusions on current HART governance: “The loss of public confidence in HART and the rail project is a major concern. The problems at HART are in part structural and can be improved by specific changes to the Charter.”
The full commission will decide whether the proposal should advance after public testimony is taken on the idea at 3:30 p.m. June 2….
read … Loss of Confidence
Political Insiders Can begin Selling Marijuana July 1
SA: …Big Island farmer Richard Ha is among the list of prominent local businessmen — including former Maui Land &Pineapple CEO David Cole, insurance executive Colbert Matsumoto and Richard Lim, former director of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism — who won medical marijuana dispensary licenses last month, beating out dozens of others including actor Woody Harrelson….
PBN: The life of a Hawaii medical marijuana dispensary owner: the first month of operations
read … Crony Dope
Kealohas mailbox: “A frame-up of a defendant for a specific reason”
KHON: …The mailbox made it a federal charge, and a federal public defender got assigned to represent the uncle.
“When I first got the case, I thought it was going to be a very quick and easy guilty plea,” said federal public defender Alex Silvert. “I mean, here is someone who allegedly stole a mailbox of the chief of police and they had a video. How complicated is that?”
Turns out, very complicated.
“We looked at the video tape they claimed it was him. It clearly wasn’t him,” Silvert said. “We started investigating, slowly but surely, all the pieces of evidence, and basically what we found was a whole slew of falsified documents, false reporting, information that just was 100-percent untrue.
“It was astounding,” Silvert added. “I’ve never had a case like this where these prominent people are involved and it appears to have been a frame-up of a defendant for a specific reason.” ….
Charges against the uncle were dismissed after a most unusual mistrial caused by the chief for making statements on the stand about the uncle’s criminal past.
“This is the chief of police who earlier had testified that he trains other officers in how to testify and what the rules of evidence are and what they can and cannot say during direct testimony,” Silvert said of the federal trial. “So he had just laid a foundation that he’s an expert and he knows how to do this, and yet on direct examination he causes a mistrial.
“I believe it was intentional because the chief of police and his wife knew the kind of evidence I had developed and knew that if the trial had continued, I would be able to expose that evidence,” Silvert said…..
PDF: View the actual police reports here.
read … Kealohas break down mailbox controversy, abuse of power accusations
TMT Pre-Hearing Generates Excuses for Supreme Court to Use
KITV: Outside a pre-conference hearing, those protesting the development of the Thirty Meter Telescope joined together to show their support to keep the top of Mauna Kea construction-free. Inside, attorneys for both sides sat right next to one another, but remained far apart over who should be a part of this case and how much of the old permit should be included in the new one. "I think we should approach this, given the significance of the case, anew," said Mauna Kea Hui attorney Richard Wurdeman….
"The Supreme Court remanded it to a certain point in time," said former judge Riki May Amano, the hearing officer for the case.
The Supreme Court did not specify when, so the debate began over how much testimony from past public hearings, staff reports and documentation should be included in the new hearing.
Wurdeman felt much of the previous process was just for show, and the project was pre-determined to get the permit. Which is why his clients want to basically start over from the beginning.
"The big concern the Supreme Court had was they railroaded this application in before the contested case hearing even started. Which made the contested case meaningless," said Wunderman.
The attorney for University of Hawaii Timothy Lui-Kwan said much had already been presented, debated and protested even before the contested case hearing was requested. So there are many steps that don't need a do-over.
"Before you can order a contested case you have to close the public hearing, which was closed. The public hearing and application was completed and closed," stated Lui-Kwan.
Judge Amano decided to start on middle ground, for the very important Big Island ground at the top of Mauna Kea.
"I believe it would be at the point when the contested case hearing was requested. That should have stopped the board from making a decision and everything after that," said Amano.
The judge set a May 31 deadline for people to apply to be a part of the case.
Then there will be two weeks for both sides to respond to requests and applications before a public hearing on June 17 in Hilo….
read … Kashmir Beckons!
Another Secret UH budget Proviso: Moves Film Studio to UH West Oahu Campus
SA: …Observers are already dissecting the Legislature’s demand that the UH College of Education move off the Manoa campus, an order that came via a proviso attached to the CIP portion of the budget.
But there is also a little-noticed directive to move the state film studio at Diamond Head to West Oahu, perhaps next to UH’s West Oahu campus.
Lawmakers linked paying off a $17 million EB-5 loan to bail out the overbudget West Oahu campus with a provision that UH transfer 30 acres of its property to the High Technology and Development Corp., the state’s Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT), and the state film office by the beginning of 2018.
At the same time, there’s another proviso ordering DBEDT’s creative industry division to “develop a transition plan for the film studio to relocate to West Oahu and for the Diamond Head studio property to revert to the administrative control of the UH.”
Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, vice chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, is in charge of the CIP portion. He shepherded the UH changes through committee after meeting with Kalbert Young, UH’s chief financial officer, and Luis Salaveria, DBEDT director….
If all the talk and promise of creative media and new film studies sound familiar, it is because Hollywood producer Ryan Kavanaugh had been lobbying for years to get a $200 million film studio built on Maui. After much heavy-handed lobbying in 2013, the Legislature called for a cooling-off period that included a $100,000 study of sites, business plans and market analysis for a creative media and film study development complex.
That study, authorized in 2015, is now underway. Notes from a pre-proposal bid conference said “the analysis plans and site recommendations will help decision makers in Hawaii understand the additional support required to expand the creative media and film industry in the state.”
Or you could just stick it in the budget and call it a day.
SA: Revenue bonds to ease UH’s repair backlog
read … UH budget provisos a peek into real legislative process
Hawaii Supreme Court hands Privatization a setback with garbage UPW ruling
KITV: To the city administration, it’s about fairness -- some get free trash pickup others don’t. To the union, it's about privatization and upholding a hard fought court challenge.
The United Public Workers union sued the city last year when it tried to terminate free service to multi-family apartments and condos, as well as to non-profits and churches.
The Hawaii Supreme Court has now upheld a lower court’s decision saying that the ending the front loader service violated civil service law and constitutional merit principles….
read … Privatization
Oahu’s Future: 757 square miles of Rusting Wind Junk
IM: BOEM identified two large potential areas, a 240 square-mile area west of Ka`ena Point and a 517 square mile area south of Oahu.
This summer BOEM will issue a Call for Information and Nominations. This will trigger a 45-day public comment period.
Then next year BOEM will whittle down the areas to Wind Energy Areas (WEAs). BOEM will publish an Area Identification and Environmental Assessment.
Although BOEM is not required to hold public meetings they will hold public scoping meetings in Honolulu, Waianae and the North Shore….
One issue raised by Progression, one of the two current bidders, is the low bar required for other companies to submit bids. Any company that is “legally, technically, and financially qualified to hold an offshore wind energy lease” can bid.
BOEM asserted that a third company is in the mix.
BOEM asserted that the company had to be American but and foreign company could establish a wholly-owned U.S. subsidiary.
It is unlikely that the current O`ahu grid could handle more than one off-shore wind project. Interconnecting 400 megawatts would probably require two to three undersea transmission lines….
read … Doomed Junk
Obama’s Gift to Honolulu: 282 More Mentally Ill, AIDS infected Homeless on the Streets
SA: …for many of the 282 homeless teenagers and homeless adults with HIV/AIDS and mental illness whose futures are now uncertain following the cuts, it’s questionable whether Housing First would serve them well — especially those who are in dire need of specialized care.
Punky Pletan-Cross, executive director of Hale Kipa, which lost $128,101 in HUD funding April 30, aptly described the funding cuts: “ … it really feels to me the message is there’s a one-size model and we’re going to prioritize that over all other considerations. That’s narrow-minded.”
And here’s the $1.3-million question: Why does it have to be one or the other — transitional versus permanent housing?
Permanent housing is optimal, but only if there is available affordable-rental stock and there are ample support systems in place. Unfortunately, the lack of affordable units in Hawaii contributes to the state’s deplorable situation of having the nation’s highest per-capita rate of homelessness.
In all, eight homeless nonprofits on Oahu are affected by the abrupt HUD cuts. Hardest hit is the Gregory House, which will lose $335,489 in HUD funding Sept. 1. Gregory House currently serves 20 formerly homeless clients with HIV/AIDS, who typically are recovering from drug and alcohol addictions and often have mental health problems.
Gregory House Executive Director Jonathon Berliner said the organization is “doing what we can to not just dump our clients out on the street.” Berliner, as well as other program directors, have vowed to aggressively go after alternative funding.
In Waianae, officials with Ho‘omau ke Ola, which serves recovering addicts through both Western treatment and ancient Hawaiian cultural practices, lost $172,000 in annual funding as of April 30. So it’s being forced to cut costs and hustle for new funding sources — even hosting a car wash recently that generated $700.
The just-ended Legislature showed the annual competition for funds for a vast array of programs — but also revealed monies being funneled to questionable pet projects. And if city leaders can propose spending $500,000 to help develop a Korean cultural center, or a like amount to plan a Honolulu Zoo parking garage, a reconsideration of priorities might be in order. Surely, emergency funding for programs that have successfully saved people from the brink of homelessness should be made a priority….
read … Thanks, Obama
Hawaii schools struggle to help growing number of homeless students
HNN: …Over the past decade, she's witnessed a disturbing trend: More of her students living on the street.
"I believe our no. 1 issue working with our homeless students is their uncertainty when they leave after school each day," Moore said. "They truly don't know if their tents will be there. If their families will be there."
Today, almost every school in the state has at least one homeless student, the state Department of Education reports.
By far the hardest hit communities are on Oahu's Leeward coast, where 754 students don't have a permanent place to live.
When students enroll in public school, their parents must fill out a form that asks them where they live.
In 2016, 3,576 students reported they didn't have a permanent place to stay, according to DOE figures. That's up 50 from the year before.
The total number of homeless students equates to at about 2 percent of the state's public school population, but officials say they believe many homeless students aren't identified.
"Some of the families will come forward," said said DOE homeless concerns liaison Cheryl Saito. "Others will remain hidden so to speak. They don't want all the attention."
The state provides homeless students with a backpack full of basic supplies, transportation and two hot meals a day….
CB: Mentally Ill Homeless Need Doctors Who Go To Them
read … Homeless Students
Crushed by Political Correctness, In Hawaii and nationally, boys falling behind in school
HNN: …in schools, locally and nationally, girls are beating boys in just about every data point that’s measured.
That’s been the case for years in fact, and the gap in achievement is only growing.
In the islands, public school girls graduate at higher rates than their male counterparts, are more likely to go to college, and score higher on tests, in both math and reading. They’re less likely to be retained in elementary school and in middle school; they’re far less likely to be disciplined….
In a recent presentation to the Board of Education, a consortium of educators called P-20 pointed out that 62 percent of girls from the Class of 2015 went to college. That compares to 49 percent for boys.
Stephen Schatz, Hawaii Department of Education deputy superintendent, said there are no plans to launch a program geared at bolstering achievement among boys.….
Here’s how Hawaii boys and girls perform on other key metrics:
- The graduation rate for public school girls was 85 percent in 2013-14, compared to 79 percent for boys.
- Just under 1 percent of middle school boys are retained, compared to .5 percent of girls
- On a state assessment, 56 percent of girls were proficient in language arts in the 2014-15 (the year a new, tougher state assessment was introduced). By comparison, 42 percent of boys were.
- In math, the gap is smaller but still there: 44 percent of girls were proficient, compared to 40 percent of boys.
- The only subject boys bested girls was science: 43 percent of boys were deemed proficient in 2014-15, compared to 41 percent of girls.
LINK: 2015 CCRI Data
read … Crushed by Political Correctness
New analysis looks at San Francisco housing costs
ILind: Here’s a great article about a very innovative bit of digging into the causes of high housing prices in San Francisco (“A guy just transcribed 30 years of for-rent ads. Here’s what it taught us about housing prices“).
The article, by Michael Andersen, tries to summarize a detailed analysis in a blog post published over the weekend by Eric Fischer.
Read through Andersen’s summary, then wade through some or all of Fischer’s original.
It’s really very interesting to see the data for housing and rents charted over a long period of time. These data allowed Fischer to calculate how changes in employment or rates of new construction would impact rents in the city….
Andersen boils it down to a couple of simple sentences:
“For the love of god, keep adding homes. Keep adding homes so things don’t get any worse and you’re not trapped in a lose-lose-lose shitstorm like San Francisco.”
You can download Fischer’s data if you want to mess with the numbers yourself.
read … New analysis looks at San Francisco housing costs
Ag Shipments Down Statewide
KGI: …The agricultural sector continued to be challenged by dry weather conditions, making statewide shipments weak for the beginning of 2016. In the first quarter, intrastate shipments of locally grown agricultural products decreased by 8.8 percent compared to the same period last year, with declines at all ports with agricultural exports.
Volumes were down 10.5 percent on Kauai; 7 percent on Oahu; 1 percent on Maui; 14.5 percent in Hilo; 8.7 percent in Kawaihae; and 1.8 percent on Molokai….
read … Young Brothers reports intrastate cargo shipments flat
Hawaii County: Lunatics Attack Styrofoam Again
HTH: A divided County Council on Monday advanced a bill banning polystyrene take-out containers starting in 2018, but only after a heated discussion about potential health hazards and environmental damage from the breakdown of said containers.
The council Environmental Management Committee, which includes all nine council members, voted 5-4 to forward Bill 140 to the council with a positive recommendation. The bill, banning the material popularly known as “Styrofoam,” faces two more votes before going to the mayor for signature or veto….
Proponents of Bill 140 included the environmental groups Surfrider Foundation, Hawaii Wildlife Fund and Sierra Club as well as local businesses that sell or use environmentally friendly alternatives to the food containers. Sarah Rafferty of Kailua-Kona said she’s gathered 4,700 signatures on a petition urging a countywide ban on single-use expanded polystyrene containers.
More than 40 proponents testified during a meeting earlier this month, with only two testifiers publicly opposing the bill.
But Hilo Councilman Aaron Chung rattled off a long list of Hilo businesses opposing the bill who since have sent letters to council members. Topping their concerns are the added cost of environmentally friendly containers, he said.
“These are local guys trying to make a go, and they’re being overlooked,” Chung said.
Chung, along with fellow Hilo Councilman Dennis “Fresh” Onishi, Puna Councilman Greggor Ilagan and Kona Councilman Dru Kanuha voted no.
Dissenters disputed health concerns about ingesting styrene, said the bill unfairly targeted small local businesses and asserted the danger to marine life is caused by litterers, not the vendors.
“Nobody talks about the littering problem,” Onishi said….
read … Stop Harassing the People
Military Prosecutors Charge Bisexual: Murdered Wife, Worked as Gay Prostitute, Collected Kiddie Porn
SA: An Army medic charged with conspiring with his lover to kill his wife in Hawaii will be court-martialed for child pornography and prostitution charges that surfaced while investigating the killing….
Walker allegedly posted on Craigslist soliciting three men to have sex in exchange for his receiving money, the Army said.
Child pornography video and photos were found on Walker’s laptop during a November 2014 search, with additional images and video found during an April 2015 search, the Army said.
read … Bisexual in the Military