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County, state legislators working on plan for special session to help Puna
HTH: …A special session of the state Legislature to help lava-ravaged Puna is being mulled for mid-August as Hawaii County works with legislators to put a plan together.
Sen. Russell Ruderman, D-Puna, said Tuesday that first the state and county must come up with a plan to present to legislative leadership. It’s likely to be a mix of funding requests and changes to law, he said.
“We don’t have a proposal at this point in time,” Ruderman said. “We have to build the ask.”
Ruderman said he met with Senate leadership Monday to discuss a possible timeline for a special session, which could last a week.
Rep. Joy San Buenaventura, D-Puna, said either legislative leadership or the governor can call a special session.
“They’re waiting for the county to make a specific plan,” she said.
A spokeswoman for Gov. David Ige said there’s no immediate information on a special session….
The County Council on Tuesday unanimously passed a nonbinding resolution asking that a special session be scheduled.
“The economic impact is being felt throughout the island. It’s being felt throughout the state to be honest,” said Puna Councilwoman Eileen O’Hara, the sponsor of the resolution. “We certainly hope the Legislature will convene a special session. There’s a lot of work going on … to come up with some plans for short-term housing and long-term housing so we can respond to this disaster in a meaningful and hopefully timely manner.”
Among those pushing for a special session is Amedeo Markoff, a business owner and board member of the Pahoa Mainstreet Association. He said six Pahoa businesses already are closing because they can’t afford to keep doors open….
SA: Don’t rush into special session
read … County, state legislators working on plan for special session to help Puna
Hawaii County Council rejects proposal to raise general excise tax
KHON: A bill that would have raised the general excise tax on Hawaii island has died.
The Hawaii County Council voted against the measure five to four.
Bill 159 proposed a quarter-percent increase in the GET that would have raised money for (Insert excuses here)…
Councilwoman Eileen O'Hara, who represents East Puna, voted against the measure.
"I just am very concerned that we are in a very, very poor fiscal point, and there's really no reason for it," she said. "The economy, nationally and even in the state, is going well, unemployment very low, and yet somehow restricting and applying this fiscal austerity is seen by many as a way to handle the problem, but it just exacerbates the problem. It just makes, ensures that the Big Island will be the poverty center of the state, and I'm really, really sorry about that thinking, because I'm really reluctant to vote for this today."…
CB: Big Island: Council Rejects Tax Hike To Replace Revenue Lost To Eruption
read … Hawaii County Council rejects proposal to raise general excise tax
Caldwell veto of bill to cap surge pricing reframes issue
SA: Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s veto Tuesday of a City Council bill to cap how much Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing services can charge during peak hours reframes the dilemma of how to meld old-school taxi regulations with new smartphone apps.
Caldwell said at a news conference that rather than require ride-hailing drivers to abide by long-held taxi rules, cabbies should be freed from their constraints and allowed to operate like their Uber and Lyft counterparts.
A new bill that’s being drafted by Corporation Counsel Donna Leong will be forwarded to the Council by the end of the week, the mayor said. Passengers will be able to choose either a per-mile fare system now used by cab companies or a pricing system that discloses upfront how much will be paid, as is used by the Uber and Lyft models.
The new bill “will level the playing field and allow transportation companies to do whatever they want as long as there’s (upfront price) disclosure and as long as the public’s protected,” Caldwell said. “The consumer determines what model they want to adopt and what vehicle they want to get into.”
The fight over the vetoed bill, which would make Honolulu the first municipality in the U.S. to require limits on surge pricing, is far from over. The focus now switches back to the Council, which voted 6-3 on June 6 to approve Bill 35….
Six votes are needed to override the mayor’s veto and make the bill a law, so Caldwell needs at least one of the six Council members who voted for the bill to change direction and go against it for the veto to stand.
Of the six who voted yes, Ikaika Anderson and Trevor Ozawa said they were doing so with reservations. The others who supported the bill were Carol Fukunaga, Ann Kobayashi, Ernie Martin and Kymberly Pine. The three “no” votes came from Brandon Elefante, Joey Manahan and Ron Menor.
Anderson said he wants to review Caldwell’s veto message before making a decision….
read … Caldwell veto of bill to cap surge pricing reframes issue
Honolulu only metro to see single-family home rents decline
PBN: Rents for single-family homes in urban Honolulu declined in March, compared to the year before, making Hawaii’s largest city the only market among 20 metropolitan areas to see a year-over-year decline, according to a report by CoreLogic.
Rent prices for Honolulu single-family homes declined 0.4 percent in March, compared to March 2017, CoreLogic (NYSE: CLGX) said. Nationally, rents for single-family properties rose 2.7 percent in March, compared to the year before….
read … Decline
New Kakaako Rules Restrict Resale for 10 Years
SA: …Ige balked at the board’s prior plan to give HCDA the right to buy back homes, which are reserved at below-market prices for moderate-income residents, if the owner sells within 30 years. (Real Estate appreciation is not for the little people.)
Such buybacks allow the agency to resell a repurchased home to another moderate-income household, and to prevent original buyers, who typically are selected by lottery, from turning affordable homes into market-priced homes after a relatively short period. HCDA can buy back the home at fair market value minus an amount that equates, on a percentage basis, to the original price discount.
Ige felt that a 30-year buyback period was “too extreme” and could discourage enough buyers so that developers might not build. Instead, Ige suggested 10 years. Previously HCDA’s buyback period was five years for affordable homes it calls “reserved housing.”
HCDA’s board approved the 10-year buyback. That was the only major change from the prior set of comprehensive rules approved by the board.
The board voted 7-1 with member Wei Fang dissenting.
Affordable-housing advocates including the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Economic Justice had urged the board to stick with 30 years….
read … New Kakaako affordable-housing rules set
Frustrated child welfare workers appeal to state lawmakers for help
HNN: …Frustrated child welfare workers appealed to state lawmakers for help during a briefing on Tuesday, where they shared their struggles — which include overwhelming caseloads….
90 of the nearly 400 positions in the state Department of Human Services' Child Welfare Services (CWS) branch are currently vacant….
The DHS director said the agency is working to address problems with recruitment and retention. The department just launched a pilot program called "Wiki Wiki Hire" to get qualified workers into positions quickly….
The statewide average for each caseworker is 30 to 35 cases, according to the department….
There's a backlog of roughly 300 moderate risk level cases that are part of voluntary case management. DHS officials said the contract provider changed and there was a gap period due to procurement challenges, but they promised that there is some relief on the way….
read … Frustrated child welfare workers appeal to state lawmakers for help
Officials estimate Kuhio Hwy repairs to cost $80M after historic floods
HNN: Officials announced on Tuesday that repairs to Kuhio Highway are going to cost at least $80 million after historic flooding on Kauai.
Flood recovery efforts continue from Haena to Koloa more than a month and a half after devastating floods. In addition to the destruction of several roadways, around 532 homes were damaged or destroyed in the torrential rains that swamped Oahu and Kauai between April 13 and 16.
While the federal government is expected to cover most of the repair costs for Kuhio Highway thanks to a disaster declaration for flood-ravaged areas of Kauai, the state is still working on getting individual assistance for residents who lost their homes and land in the deluge.
The state department of transportation says a contract will be soon be awarded to stabilize the slope above the highway between the areas of Waikoko and Wainiha. A separate contract will also be needed for upgrades to the Waikoko, Waipa and Waioli bridges.
The highway repair project is expected to continue 10 hours a day, six days a week, until October.
NR: JUNE 19, 2018 KUHIO HIGHWAY EMERGENCY FLOOD REPAIR UPDATE
read … Officials estimate Kuhio Hwy repairs to cost $80M after historic floods
Added stress: Lava evacuees struggle with thieves, trespassers
HNN: There have been more than a dozen reported property-related crimes in the lower Puna area since evacuees have been forced to leave their homes in early May….
Jennifer, who wished to use only her first name, was informed that her Leilani Estates home had a smashed window.
Neighbors told her that muddy footprints tracked the house, beds were slept in and beer bottles were littered throughout….
Her neighbor, Heath Dalton, was one of the men who came into to assess her home. He lost his on May 5.
“I want to help out,” he said. “It’s still a tight-knit community.”
Now, Dalton helps by visiting Leilani estates several times a day to check in on his neighbors’ property. He’s escorted in by Civil Defense.
He said that he’s seen four homes that were either broken into or damaged….
read … Added stress: Lava evacuees struggle with thieves, trespassers
Dispensary Law is Latest Justification to Bust Puna Doper
HTH: Jury selection was to begin Monday in the trial of longtime marijuana activist Mike Ruggles, accused by authorities of operating an unlicensed medical cannabis dispensary at his Fern Acres home.
Instead, the jury pool of 60 individuals was dismissed by Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura, and Ruggles’ trial was re-scheduled for March 4, 2019, almost nine months from now.
The 61-year-old Ruggles is charged with first- and second-degree commercial promotion of marijuana, first-degree promotion of a detrimental drug, two counts of possessing drug paraphernalia, and prohibited possession of an ammunition magazine with a capacity in excess of 10 rounds.
That’s far fewer than the 31 criminal charges Ruggles, the father of County Councilwoman Jen Ruggles, originally faced after police served a search warrant on Ruggles’ Pikake Street home on Sept. 10, 2015.
Officers reportedly confiscated 134 marijuana plants, 49.3 pounds of dried processed marijuana, 1.2 pounds and 357 capsules of suspected marijuana concentrate, 5.5 pounds of marijuana edibles, a loaded shotgun, a loaded pistol, a 15-round magazine for a pistol and $1,486 in cash.
The search warrant came five days after an undercover officer bought about 1 1/2 ounces of marijuana and a vaping device with a vial of marijuana concentrate from Ruggles, police said.
Ruggles pleaded not guilty to all charges and maintains his Alternative Pain Management Pu‘uhonua Collective was not a dispensary, but a legal way for medical marijuana patients to obtain their medicine.
About two dozen of Ruggles’ supporters, including Jen Ruggles, were on hand Monday….
read … Doper
Parallel road proposed for Waianae Coast
KITV: …The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands received millions from the city and state for an emergency access road, but is also looking into providing a way to connect Nanakuli Avenue with Lualualei Naval Road.
"What is possible is a parallel route that would connect existing roads, so people could get to where they need to go without using Farrington Highway," …
Even though that road may be 5-10 years away from being built, the possibility has some Waianae drivers looking for the light at the end of the traffic tunnel.
read … Parallel road proposed for Waianae Coast
Snorkel Rentals Kill: Another Near-Death Experience
KGI: …David Sandoval is happy to be alive. The 60-year-old from Albuquerque N.M. nearly drowned last month while snorkeling at Poipu Beach….
Mike Hull was also out for a swim that day when he spotted someone snorkeling far from shore. He didn’t think much of it until after a minute or so, when the man didn’t come up for air.
“I thought, this could be a problem and at that time I was about 20 feet away, so I went underwater to see his position and that’s when I saw he was limp, vertical, the only thing out of the water was the back of his head,” said the 72-year-old from Anchorage, Alaska….
Sandoval, a pharmacy manager, doesn’t remember much about the day he was rescued, other than wanting to go snorkeling, or the five-day period following his near death experience. He is doing well, despite still experiencing some pain from three broken ribs and a dislocated sternum. He is happy to be alive….
read … Snorkel Rentals Kill
Saving Hawaii’s GOP: A Tough Job For 3 Candidates For Governor
CB: …A west Oahu lawmaker, a perennial candidate and a former education official are vying to become just the third Republican governor since statehood….
“I’ll tell you what’s wrong with the Republican Party,” Hemmings says. “It’s the fact that John Carroll is leading Andria Tupola in the polls.”…
Carroll also discussed the controversial end of his legal career, which has been the subject of what he says is
unfair (Translation: ‘Accurate’) reporting.
He practiced as a military lawyer and private attorney for half a decade before resigning from the bar in 2017 to avoid disciplinary action.
Carroll says the State Office of Disciplinary Counsel’s complaint sprung from an estate matter involving an elderly woman with a large estate and a younger man planning to marry her. Carroll says the man got mad that Carroll set up a guardian and conservator to oversee the woman’s assets and complained to the ODC.
The ODC found Carroll had improperly managed his client fund accounts, which Carroll admits, although he stresses he didn’t improperly take any funds. Carroll says he was planning to retire anyway and volunteered to relinquish his license rather than fight.
Although he’s leading in the polls, Carroll has lost some support recently because of negative campaigning by an advisor, Eric Ryan.
State Rep. Bob McDermott, for instance, says he withdrew his support for Carroll because of attacks Ryan made on Tupola, which culminated in Tuploa obtaining a restraining order against Ryan. McDermott, who at one point was running for governor himself, says Carroll was wrong to let this go on.
Carroll says he asked Ryan to stop denigrating other Republicans. But he also calls Ryan “a genius” who had “done a tremendous job for me.” …
During a recent campaign stop in Manoa, Andria Tupola sounds a bit like someone running for mayor rather than for chief executive of a sprawling archipelago….
Ray L’Heureux waited until April to announce he was running. And he is just now starting to raise money.
But GOP leaders insist he’s for real.
“He’s absolutely a real candidate,” says Shirlene Ostrov, chairwoman of the Hawaii Republican Party. “He did come in late, but he’s been working hard.”…
L’Heureux left his last job amid some controversy.
He was chief executive of a nonprofit that supports the National Park Service’s operations at Pearl Harbor when the Associated Press reported that the group’s board had suspended L’Heureux with pay based on an anonymous letter alleging misconduct. L’Heureux says he eventually resigned his position at Pacific Historic Parks because of “philosophical differences” with the group’s board chairman.
As for his campaign, L’Heureux says he’s started building an organization: he has a senior advisor and social media manager on board and is about to bring on a treasurer-fundraiser….
read … Saving Hawaii’s GOP: A Tough Job For 3 Candidates For Governor