Republican Tax Cuts Will Lower Hawaii Electric Bills
UPDATE: Divided OHA Trustees Vote on Tribal Recognition Act
Compact Impact Bill Reintroduced: Democrats Complaining About Cost of COFA Immigrants
Applicants Wanted For State Ethics Commission
Real Traffic Relief: Westside Welcomes Fifth Lane
DCCA Releases Hawaii Insurance Premium Price Comparison Guide
HTA Maps: How Many TVRs in Your Neighborhood?
Chin: $2.5M Needed to Prep Police to Protect Mauna Kea Telescope Construction
SA: Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin, the state’s chief law enforcement officer, is seeking $2.5 million from the Legislature that he said would be used to respond to potential mass violence or civil disobedience events — and, possibly, demonstrations atop Mauna Kea.
Chin detailed a budget request from his department vaguely called “state security operations” during budget briefings Tuesday before the Senate Ways and Means and Judiciary committees, and the House Finance Committee.
He said the $2.5 million would be used as a contingency fund to coordinate overall response efforts among the state’s law enforcement officers — investigators for the Attorney General’s Office, deputy sheriffs under the Department of Public Safety, and Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement officers under the Department of Land and Natural Resources.
That could include deploying resources on Mauna Kea, where construction of the controversial Thirty Meter Telescope has been stalled since 2015 amid legal challenges and large protests.
When construction was set to begin in 2015, protesters who consider the mountain sacred to Hawaiians repeatedly blocked access to the summit to prevent equipment from reaching the project site. Dozens of protesters were arrested and many have vowed to continue opposing the project, which is tied up in the courts.
Last September, when the state Board of Land and Natural Resources issued a new construction permit for the project, Gov. David Ige said that when construction proceeds, the state would balance the rights of protesters with access rights for TMT’s developers.
Chin did not specify how the requested security funds might be used on the mountain but said in general it would be distributed among state law enforcement agencies for things like overtime, travel and equipment.
“People say, ‘Is that Mauna Kea? Are we talking about security operations for that?’ And the best answer that I can give … is that state security operations could be for an event like a Mauna Kea protest,” Chin said. “It could be for any episode of mass violence or civil unrest or any event that involves official state government leaders or national leaders.”
Flashback 2015: Crying Police Apologize to Telescope Protesters
read … Mauna Kea Security
After KSBE Loses Million Dollar Judge, settlement talks begin in Kamehameha Schools sex abuse case
HNN: …About 100 people, including the victims, their families and lawyers and Kamehameha Schools’ trustees and its CEO, met at Circuit Court on Wednesday to begin the mediation process.
Paul Finn, who mediated many of the sex abuse claims against priests in Boston, and former Circuit Judge Victoria Marks, are the mediators. They are meeting with both sides until Thursday to work on a deal. If no agreement is reached, the case will likely go to trial.
"We've put some substantial offers on the table that we think and hope will … bring closure and allow the healing to begin,” said school Trustee Micah Kane on Wednesday. ….
… victim, Gerald Carrell, said he’s pessimistic a deal will be struck.
"Right now, I have no expectations. I can be honest about that. I've heard a lot of words. I've had a lot of promises broken to me by Kamehameha Schools, St. Francis,” he said. "To be honest, we felt like were in exile for 40 years, just coming back was torture." ….
read … With both sides seeking closure, settlement talks begin in Kamehameha Schools sex abuse case
TOD: Tinkering Around Edges of Affordable Housing Crisis
SA: …There are some encouraging signs, proposals that deserve full debate and consideration:
>> Gov. David Ige is proposing a sizeable investment in housing this session: more than $123.4 million in new housing projects and $59 million for public housing improvements. Among the projects on the horizon is an affordable rental complex for seniors at the Hawaii Public Housing Authority’s property on School Street.
These are undoubtedly needed — rising rents have left many seniors out in the cold — but it’s a scaled-down version of what the agency had hoped to build there. That’s indicative of the constraints community concerns about infrastructure capacity places on development plans.
>> Progress is being made on the TOD plans for each rail stop. Plans are developed for Waipahu, Pearl City-Aiea, Kalihi and downtown stops, Mayor Kirk Caldwell said.
However. Bills 58 and 59 need to be approved to finish the groundwork for TOD. These measures would finalize requirements for affordable units, as well as the incentives for developers — generally, a boost in allowed height, density and other factors, making the projects easier to pencil out.
>> The Hawaii Interagency Council for Transit-Oriented Development has issued its TOD strategic plan, identifying actions proposed by each county to support TOD.
read … Not Nearly Enough
Homeless Tent City Bill Festering in the Legislature (again)
CB: …Gates introduced a bill last year to create safe zones but it was amended to instead create a working group that studied the idea. Gates said he plans to introduce a similar measure this session.
State Sen. Josh Green plans to introduce a companion bill.
Any bills related to safe zones would need to pass the Senate Human Services Committee, where Green is the chairman.
His counterpart in the House, Health and Human Services Chairman Rep. John Mizuno, is also enthusiastic about the concept and plans to introduce his own measure.
The term “safe zones” has bad connotations, Mizuno said, so his bill would characterize the legal encampments as “Aloha Transitional Zones,” or something along those lines.
“People who oppose the idea
think of it (recognize it) as a free-for-all,” Mizuno said. “Like the wild, wild West with no protection and security.”….
It’s not clear if safe zones would be more cost-effective than traditional shelters or more effective at lessening Hawaii’s homeless crisis.
Camp Kikaha, a collection of tents near a homeless shelter in Kona, is considered the only existing safe zone in the state. Hawaii Island Mayor Harry Kim spent $4,000 to create the encampment in August.
By October, 22 people lived in the camp, which cost the county about $963 per person each month to run….
KHON: What you can do if homeless live near your home
read … Festering
Sen Theilen to Introduce Anti-Opioid Bills
CB: This year, I am sponsoring House Bills 1602 and 1603.
HB 1603 requires that pharmacies and any outlets selling opioid drugs must provide a warning label of the risks that the medication carries beginning in August 2018. The label shall:
• convey in plain and simple language messaging like “WARNING: THIS DRUG IS AN OPIOID. THE USE OF AN OPIOID MAY RESULT IN AN ADDICTION TO OPIOIDS AND DEATH”;
• feature at least 14-point font;
• contain all-capital lettering; and
• be affixed to the drug container.
HB 1602 requires health insurers and health maintenance organizations to provide coverage and benefits for opioid dependence for a minimum of six months of inpatient and outpatient treatment beginning January 2019. This includes:
• unlimited benefits at in-network facilities;
• out-of-network facility admittance within 24 hours when no in-network facility is immediately available;
• no prepayment of medical expenses by patients during the first six months per plan year of benefits except for copayments, deductibles or co-insurance; and
• providing inpatient stays for the first 28 days without any insurer’s backdated or retroactive reviews of “medical necessity.”
read … Anti-Opioid
Saito arrives in Hawaii to face charges after state hospital escape
KHON: …He is scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 16.
If Saito is convicted and sent to prison, Attorney General Doug Chin says Saito would then be sent back to the state hospital (to be with his HGEA girlfriends) after serving his time…..
Saito will be sent to Oahu Community Correctional Center where he will remain in custody as he waits to go on trial for escape. His bail is set at $500,000.
Chin says (that since he's running for Congress) he’s going to ask a judge to set the bail even higher (instead of just releasing him to the custody of one of his ex-wives)…..
Meanwhile: Kalihi man accused in violent killing deemed unfit to stand trial
read … Saito arrives in Hawaii to face charges after state hospital escape
Lawsuit filed Against DHS in ‘Peter Boy’ death
HTH: …The estate the late Peter Kema Jr. and Kema Jr.’s siblings are suing the state of Hawaii, the Department of Human Services and Kema Jr.’s parents, claiming the 1997 death of the chronically abused Big Island boy could have been prevented.
The suit was filed Wednesday in Honolulu Circuit Court by attorney Randall Rosenberg on behalf of the estate and Kema Jr.’s siblings, Chauntelle Acol, Allan Acol and Lina Acol. The complaint alleges negligence by the state and DHS Child Protective Services workers for returing the child known as “Peter Boy” to the care of his parents, Peter Kema Sr. and Jaylin Kema, despite evidence of abuse. It also alleges negligence by Kema Sr. and Jaylin Kema in the abuse of the boy that led to his death in 1997 and their fraudulent concealment of the boy’s death until 2016.
The suit seeks general, special and punitive damages for the estate and Peter Boy’s siblings.
A special master, Stephen W. Lane, was appointed by Hilo Circuit Judge Henry Nakamoto to investigate the circumstances of Peter Boy’s death and and determine if the boy’s estate had a legal basis for filing a claim. Lane’s report found “substantial evidence of colorable claims against the state of Hawaii DHS/CPS and others arising out of the care and treatment of Peter Boy and his siblings,” who were also abused….
read … Lawsuit filed in ‘Peter Boy’ death
Hawaii County Department of Favoritism Pretends to Clean up Hiring Practices
HTH:…The county has done away with its previous practice of holding applicant lists open indefinitely, which made it difficult for hiring officials to sift through lists of as many as 900 candidates, Brilhante said. The practice also could have led to favoritism when a preferred candidate was added to the list at the last minute, he said, adding he’s not aware that that actually occurred.
Now, frequently open entry-level positions — such as maintenance workers and groundskeepers — will be advertised for a 10-day window. HR then will rate the candidates against the required skill sets and forward the top 10-15 applicants to the hiring departments as need arises, he said.
A few hard-to-fill positions, such as crossing guards, will remain open indefinitely, Brilhante said….
One other audit recommendation, that the county provide a hotline for whistle-blowers, has been more difficult to address. Employees who were concerned about hiring practices kept quiet because they feared retaliation, the audit said.
Brilhante said he’s been in contact with the state ombudsman, hoping that office could be a neutral party to which whistle-blowers could report. There are federal and state protections for whistle-blowers, he added.
Brilhante said he’s also planning to ask the County Council for budget approval to hire an individual to regularly audit recruitment and hiring activity in the department.
The Sept. 7 audit report, by Legislative Auditor Bonnie Nims, found numerous problems in how the county selected applicants to be interviewed and how candidates were assessed.
The audit said the creation of a Staffing Review Committee during former Mayor Billy Kenoi’s administration, with the power to overrule departments’ hiring choices, contributed to “questionable hiring practices” and “inappropriate involvement” in a hiring agency’s choice of qualified candidates. Mayor Harry Kim disbanded the committee upon taking office.
The audit found cases in some departments where applicants were offered positions before interviews were conducted, where no references were checked, where the number of interviews were the same as vacancies even though there was a large referred list, where a random number generator, instead of a skills test, was used to winnow applicants, where applications with mainland addresses were discarded, and other questionable practices.
Hawaii Island newspapers, in an investigation, expanded on the audit’s findings by revealing the use of sticky notes and the acronym “POI” to designate a “person of interest,” who was selected even before recruitment was conducted for positions.
Flashback: Audit Exposes Illegal System to Bypass Civil Service, Hire 100s of Kenoi Cronies
read … Favoritism
HMSA Finds Excuse to Eliminate Coverage for Expensive Kidney Patients
HNN: … Beginning Feb 1, HMSA will no longer accept premium payments made by third parties. That includes the American Kidney Fund.
The fund pays premiums for 115 HMSA members who use the insurance to pay for life-sustaining dialysis.
Jeffrey Wong worries switching to public insurance won't cover all his medical bills and could disrupt his dialysis treatments.
"If I didn't pay HMSA to cover myself then I would go back to Medicare or Quest or state or one of the other federal agencies. That will probably cost me between $600 and $800 in medicine alone," he said.
Federal regulators have accused American Kidney of violating the nation's Anti-Kickback statute by steering patients to dialysis centers that donate money to its fund. Reimbursements to those centers are high and some of the money gets donated back to the kidney fund. …
Yadao said of the 115 affected members, 100 already have secondary coverage for their dialysis….
read … Some Hawaii dialysis patients worried about change in HMSA policy
Maui Homeowners Outraged over $300M Cesspool Mandate
MN: …Upcountry residents spoke in outrage Tuesday night against a new state law that would outlaw all cesspools by 2050 and cost residents tens of thousands of dollars each to upgrade sewage systems during a state Department of Health meeting held at the Mayor Eddie Tam Memorial Center in Makawao.
Last month, the department submitted a report to the state Legislature that identified Makawao as one of the highest-priority areas where cesspools are beginning to affect drinking water, streams or beaches. Upcountry has 7,400 cesspools that are potential threats to drinking water, and the new law requires residents to upgrade them to septic tanks or other approved treatment systems.
Virtually all of the 250 residents in attendance rejected the state-mandated upgrades with some questioning the validity of the report. Many explained they do not have the money for the upgrade and plan to hand their homes down to their children and grandchildren.
“The stories here amongst these people — who are going to bear the cost of this — explain that this is insurmountable and entirely unfair,” said Maui County Planning Department Director Will Spence, who spoke as a resident. “I sincerely estimate it’s going to cost $300 million on their backs. The state can come up with a better means than by these people, who are the least able to afford these changes.”….
CB: Lawmakers, Health Officials Point To Each Other For Billion Dollar Cesspool Answers
read … Cesspool
Is This Maui Landowner Getting A Raw Deal From The State?
CB: … A man who lost his waterfront land may have to pay the state $1 million as part of an eminent domain case….
read … Is This Maui Landowner Getting A Raw Deal From The State?
Feds: Former death row inmate came to Oahu to build prostitution empire
KHON: …Federal investigators say a man once spent time on Delaware's death row came to Hawaii intending to develop a major prostitution ring – and that he threatened, beat and raped women to force them into cooperation.
On Wednesday, Isaiah McCoy and his wife, Tawana Roberts, appeared briefly before a judge; McCoy is charged with one count of human trafficking, and Roberts, a Schofield Barracks soldier, is charged with helping her husband recruit women.
In court documents obtained by Hawaii News Now on Wednesday, authorities argue it's imperative that McCoy stays in jail while awaiting trial because he's demonstrated a credible intent to continue committing crimes.
Video evidence submitted by prosecutors shows McCoy talking during a Facebook Live video posted in September 2017 – video that shows McCoy driving around Oahu, in the company of an accused murderer named Jordan Smith, with what appears to be drugs and handgun. in the back seat.
It's in that video that the feds say McCoy "alludes to a prostitution ring he set up in Waikiki" and "appears to suggest an intent to recruit more girls for his business."
In a portion of the video that was obtained by Hawaii News Now, McCoy himself addresses the camera, saying: " Waikiki man, rich n****s out here, you feel me? Y'all n****s don't be seeing me on social media because I've been hiding. I got too much money, you feel me?"
The 17-page motion also details police interviews with two women who say McCoy coerced them into prostitution. The women allege they were held captive in a hotel room and suffered beatings and rapes by McCoy….
read … PIMP
Retired Hawaii County PD Sues Over Arrest
HTH: …A retired Hawaii Police Department detective claims he was falsely arrested and imprisoned early last year, and is suing the county and a police captain.
The civil lawsuit, filed Monday in Hilo Circuit Court by attorney Ted Hong on behalf of John Rodrigues Jr., also claims Rodrigues was defamed and his civil rights were violated.
Rodrigues is seeking unspecified general and special damages from the county and Capt. Samuel Jelsma, the Puna district commander, and punitive damages from Jelsma.
The department itself isn’t named as a defendant.
The complaint alleges that on Jan. 26, 2017, Rodrigues, then recently retired after 26 years on the force, called 911 to request police assistance near the area of Makuu Drive and Third Avenue in Hawaiian Paradise Park.
Rodrigues claimed he was threatened by Wesley Kaimana “Mana” Brooks, whom Rodrigues said fired a shot at him with a 9 mm handgun. According to the suit, when Jelsma arrived on scene, he directed officers, with Rodrigues’ permission, to search his truck for firearms — which, as a retired police officer in good standing, Rodrigues is legally authorized to concealed carry under the 2004 federal Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act, or LEOSA. They recovered a Remington shotgun and Smith and Wesson 9 mm handgun from the truck.
Rodrigues told Jelsma that Brooks had stalked Rodrigues’ son, and the son had filed three police reports, including one alleging Brooks made a death threat against Rodrigues’ son while brandishing an AK-47 and a 9 mm handgun, but police refused to investigate, the suit alleges.
The lawsuit claims Jelsma ordered Rodrigues to drive himself to the Pahoa Police Station, which he did. It alleges that Rodrigues repeatedly asked Jelsma whether he was under arrest, that Jelsma said “no” but also told Rodrigues he wasn’t free to leave. The suit states Rodrigues was improperly detained for four hours without being advised of his rights before he was arrested on suspicion of three counts of first-degree terroristic threatening and six firearms offenses.
After conferring with prosecutors, police released Rodrigues pending further investigation, but disseminated a media release stating Rodrigues had been arrested, which is the basis of Rodrigues’ claim of defamation….
read … Lawsuit