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Friday, September 18, 2020
September 18, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 8:51 PM :: 2976 Views

Waikoloa Mauka Project Now Subject of FBI Investigation, Developer Says

DoE Announces New COVID Benchmarks for Reopening

Senate to hold special session on Intermediate Court of Appeals and other judicial appointments

Hawaii Unemployment Drops to 12.5% as Workers Leave Workforce

COVID Count 114 new cases out of 4,559 tests

Honolulu Rail P3 Bidder Wants More Than $2 Billion For The Final Stretch

CB: … One of the companies vying to finish Honolulu rail under a public-private partnership revealed itself during a recent quarterly earnings call, but the price its executive quoted vastly exceeds what city officials have budgeted for construction.

Ronald Tutor, CEO of Los Angeles-based Tutor Perini Corp. disclosed in a July 29 call with investors that his construction company is part of a team that’s competing against one other joint venture for rail’s P3 award.

As part of the deal, the team that’s selected would build rail’s remaining 4 miles and eight stations into downtown Honolulu. HART has estimated that construction work to cost around $1.4 billion.

However, during the call Tutor said his company’s bid was “over $2 billion.”

Jorge Casado, Tutor Perini’s vice president for investor relations, said Thursday that he couldn’t specify further what that $2 billion-plus price covered. It’s not clear whether it exclusively covers design and construction. The P3 deal is expected to also include a 30-year operations and maintenance component.

Tutor told investors that he expected the P3 award to occur sometime in the fourth quarter of the year. He said the joint venture his team is competing against consists of a Spanish company and two Japanese firms. He didn’t give their names.

The call took place five days after final proposals were due for the P3 deal….

RTS: With the deadline now past, many wonder how much the last leg of Hawaii’s first light-rail project will cost

read … Honolulu Rail P3 Bidder Wants More Than $2 Billion For The Final Stretch

Ethics: Local 630 Buys Anderson to Stop Rail Audit?

CB: … As Honolulu Council Chair Ikaika Anderson departs city hall and starts working for a local union, one of his council colleagues is calling for an ethics investigation into his acceptance of the job and the nomination of his staff member to serve out the remainder of his term.

Councilwoman Heidi Tsuneyoshi held a press conference on Thursday afternoon to announce she’d filed two complaints with the Honolulu Ethics Commission.

“The concerns I have include but are not limited to the fact that Council Chair Anderson … has made many very important decisions regarding the rail project, which is very connected to Local Union 630, Plasterers & Cement Masons,” she said….

Tsuneyoshi’s first ethics complaint concerns what she believes could be a conflict of interest. It questions whether Anderson used his position to help Local 630, the plasterers and cement masons union, while he was considering working for them.

The councilwoman pointed to several council bills that benefitted the construction trades including bonds floated for the rail as well as the capital improvement budgets for the city and the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation.

She also noted the approval of legislation on community workforce agreements, which requires union labor on all public works projects over $2 million.

“Legislation on Community Workforce Agreements (CWA) was also strongly supported by Chair Anderson and Local Union 630 and met with strong resistance from private contractors who cited concerns for creating an unfair playing field and removing the competitive bidding process from City contracts which greatly assists in maintaining transparency in the awarding of government contacts funded by taxpayer dollars,” Tsuneyoshi wrote in her complaint.

Tsuneyoshi’s complaint notes that Anderson and City Council Vice Chair Ann Kobayashi stopped an approved and funded forensic audit for the rail project that all members had supported.

The councilwoman is asking the ethics commission to investigate whether Anderson’s employment timeline aligns with his decision on the audit….

read … Councilwoman Files Ethics Complaints Over Chair’s Departure To Union Job

Surprise: Anderson Nominates Local 630 Favorite Drinking Buddy Texeira as his Replacement

CB: Tsuneyoshi’s second complaint centers on Anderson’s recommendation that the council appoint one his staff members to finish his term, which ends in January.

Initially, Anderson urged the appointment of his longtime friend and chief of staff Andrew Malahoff. However, an amended resolution swapped Malahoff out for Anderson’s deputy chief of staff, Alan Texeira, who lost the primary election for the seat last month. He was the third-place finisher.

Consideration of the resolution on Anderson’s replacement is scheduled for a special council meeting on Wednesday. Tsuneyoshi says that resolution, and another one that would make Kobayashi the new council chair, were rushed and allow for no public input….

read … Councilwoman Files Ethics Complaints Over Chair’s Departure To Union Job

Hilo’s Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home has history of problems

SA: … The Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home was a source of concern for federal regulators even before the pandemic, earning an overall “below average” rating and a citation for failing to provide and implement an infection prevention and control program.

The 95-bed Hilo nursing home, named after a decorated World War II veteran in the 442nd Infantry Regiment, has had seven health citations over the past three years, two of which resulted in thousands of dollars in fines by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency that oversees nursing home facilities.

According to a CMS report in October, the Big Island veterans home failed to clean the suction equipment and canister for one of six residents reviewed, placing the veteran at risk for infection….

Federal inspectors found nearly 7 ounces of clear yellow liquid in the resident’s canister and suction tubing the morning of Sept. 30. The next day, investigators saw the same suction equipment containing the same fluid. A registered nurse who was interviewed did not know how long the liquid had been there and acknowledged it should have been immediately disposed of and the equipment properly cleaned according to nursing home policy, the report said.

“This deficient practice put the resident at risk for the development and transmission of communicable diseases and infections,” the report noted. The problem was deemed corrected Nov. 12.

The veterans home was fined nearly $9,000 in November and more than $20,000 in late 2018. It received only one star for its health inspection rating by CMS, but five stars for each of the staffing and quality ratings. The facility’s overall rating is two stars out of five, or “below average.”…

read … Hilo’s Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home has history of problems

Because HGEA Just Can’t Get the Job Done—DLIR to Outsource Call Center 

HNN: … The state’s unemployment office says a new call center should be coming online by the end of the month to handle the current caseload.

Hawaii News Now has reported extensively on the severe communication problems at the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. Many of those who have trouble seeking benefits say they can call all day, every day and still not get through to have their questions answered.

That’s leaving many families with absolutely nowhere to turn.

“We’re getting scared. I mean, how are we going to pay for our bills? We don’t have any money coming in, very little state things. It was frightening that we weren’t going to be able to make our payments,” said Russell Raymond, an unemployed kitchen manager at a local resort.

Finally, there is a hard target date for when a new call center with trained customer service contractors should come online.

This week, Anne Perreira-Eustaquio was officially named director of state Labor Department.

On Thursday, she said the state is contracting with a mainland company called Maximus to bring on 100 people to take customer service calls for the unemployment office….

read … New unemployment call center set to launch as state struggles to keep up with claims

Five Point Plan to Beat COVID in Hawaii

PBN: … Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff, one of the prominent billionaires who own second homes in Hawaii, has a message on Twitter for the state that he’s calling “Hawaii 5-0: Steps to 0 Covid.”

Benioff, who has more than 1 million followers on Twitter, recently tweeted his five steps and pinned it to the top of his feed:

  1. “State mask mandate w/$100 fine (masks over nose & mouth)
  2. Outdoor-only restaurants, bars, gyms, worship (no inside) & $100 fine <6’ social distance
  3. Target key communities
  4. Free test & 1K contact tracers
  5. Pre/post test arrival barrier”

Benioff also tweeted this week’s reports about Hawaii reopening tourism by allowing visitors with a negative Covid test to bypass the mandatory 14-day quarantine and pointed out in a tweet that French Polynesia, Jamaica and Antigua have done the same “with big fines for months.”

“Hawaii must reboot its tourism economy now & catch up with other island nations,” he wrote.

read … Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has message to beat Covid in Hawaii

‘We Don’t Survive’ Without Reopening Tourism

CB: … Hawaii may not see 10 million tourists in a year land on its shores again soon — or ever — but the economy won’t fully recover until at least some tourists return, a panel of tourism and business leaders said Thursday.

How that happens and what those tourists do when they get here was the subject of a 90-minute panel discussion hosted by Civil Beat that included Springboard Hospitality CEO Ben Rafter, ABC stores owner Paul Kosasa and Sherry Menor-McNamara of the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii. Civil Beat reporter Stewart Yerton moderated the discussion.

“Tourism is what makes Hawaii a healthy economy,” Rafter said. “We don’t survive without it.”…

read … ‘We Don’t Survive’ Without Reopening Tourism

Hawaii cargo rate hike expected to lift prices of some goods

AP: …A cargo shipping rate increase in Hawaii is expected to raise prices on some products moved between the islands before they reach customers.

The 46% increase by interisland shipper Young Brothers LLC took effect this month, The Maui News reported Wednesday.

Although some businesses have yet to see updated invoices, Young Brothers confirmed Tuesday that its emergency rate increase has gone into effect….

The company also returned to shipping schedules used before the coronavirus outbreak, which was a condition of the rate approval by the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission.

David Marrs, owner of Marmac Ace Hardware stores in Kahului and Maui Lani, said he will have to raise prices on products from about three or four off-island vendors because of the change.

“When we get the order in, I will start seeing the increase of freight charges,” Marrs said. “That’s when we will have to increase our percentages, our margins.”…

read … Hawaii cargo rate hike expected to lift prices of some goods

Powerful state senators pressure agencies to back Hu Honua

ILind: … There’s a major political power play that’s been going on for months as backers of Hu Honua Bioenergy, LLC, now known for some purposes as Honua Ola Bioenergy, try to save the floundering $500 million proposed wood-burning power plant from finally going under for good.

In the latest public move, Hu Honua filed an emergency motion yesterday (September 16, 2020) asking the Hawaii Supreme Court to overturn rulings by the Public Utilities Commission requiring the company’s proposal to go through the competitive bidding process that now applies to other renewable energy projects.

The appeal to the high court appears to be a desperate “Hail Mary” pass aiming to allow Hu Honua to proceed despite a series of adverse legal and regulatory rulings, and a host of additional legal, environmental, regulatory and financial issues that remain outstanding.

Meanwhile, two key senators have been flexing their political muscles behind the scenes for months in an attempt to pressure the PUC and the Ige administration into giving Hu Honua a political pass in order to proceed.

Glenn Wakai, chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy, Economic Development, and Tourism, and Donovan Dela Cruz, chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, have both been putting the squeeze on departments and key employees on behalf of Hu Honua.

Privately, some of those who have been buttonholed by Dela Cruz, or have spoken to those who have been leaned on, describe the senate’s budget chair as aggressive and demanding. He has earned a reputation for threatening to cut budget line items for programs and agencies, or even the specific positions of key agency staff, if his “requests” and “recommendations” are not complied with. Dela Cruz is also rumored to be raising campaign funds for a gubernatorial bid in 2022.

Wakai has been accused of similar political bullying. It was bad enough that the Hawaii Tourism Authority hired an outside law firm to conduct an investigation of one instance several years ago, which found evidence Wakai had bullied and harassed agency employees….

read … Powerful state senators pressure agencies to back Hu Honua

Will State Supreme Court Wipe out Hawaii Fishing Fleet?

DN: … Malama Chun (Chun) challenged the issuance of commercial marine licenses to foreign non-immigrant crewmembers on longline fishing boats that dock in Honolulu to sell their catch. Chun sought a declaratory order that the DLNR lacks the authority to issue commercial marine licenses to persons not lawfully admitted to the United States. The Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) denied the petition; Chun appealed the decision to the Circuit Court of the First Circuit, which affirmed the BLNR. The Supreme Court accepted Chun’s application for transfer of this case….

read … Oral arguments Friday September 18 on DLNR issuance of commercial fishing licenses to foreign fishermen

Councilman: HPD Should Help People During Pandemic, Not Ticket Them

CB: … Honolulu City Councilman Tommy Waters is calling on the police department to take a less punitive approach to enforcing the mayor’s stay-at-home orders.

The chair of the council’s public safety committee was reacting to the news that HPD has issued approximately 44,000 criminal citations for pandemic violations in the last month alone. The wave of tickets is overwhelming prosecutors and the judiciary, angering residents and raising questions about the city’s insistence on heavily policing the outdoors to combat a virus that primarily spreads indoors.

People found in violation are guilty of a misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000, up to a year in jail or both….

read … Councilman: HPD Should Help People During Pandemic, Not Ticket Them

Funding for homeless sweeps along state roadways runs out, putting future clean-ups on hold

HNN: … Funding for homeless sweeps along roadways managed by the state has run out, which means regular clean-up operations are on hold.

And that’s allowed the number of encampments on property managed by the state Department of Transportation to grow, including beneath the Nimitz Viaduct to embankments of the H-1 and teetering on the edge of Nimitz Highway.

The agency was supposed to have received $7 million from the state so it could continue to pay a private contractor to remove homeless camps from its land.

But because of COVID-19, that money is in limbo.

Montgomery PowerSports is about a block down the road from the Nimitz Highway encampment. The manager says sometimes problems can spill over to his business.

“They hang out here. They start yelling and arguing with us,” said Nicholas Busher.

So far this year, he’s had to deal with a break-in, one of his trucks being stolen and a busted window….

(NOTE: Federal COVID relief money could be used to build 1000s of plywood SROs in a matter of weeks and the pay the police to FORCE the homeless in to them—all under emergency decree.  But instead the policy is to expand homelessness as much as possible through creative use of excuses and budget tricks.)

read … Funding for homeless sweeps along state roadways runs out, putting future clean-ups on hold

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