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Tuesday, April 13, 2021
April 13, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:25 PM :: 3900 Views

Auditor: Working Group Report "Slipshod and riddled with errors and omissions"

Vaccine Passport: Hawaii vs Florida

SB251 Favors Uber/Lyft at Expense of Local Companies

Hawaii Small Businesses Among Most Exposed to Pandemic Losses

How Hawaii Can Waste More Federal COVID Stimulus Money--Biden has some ideas

Hawaii: 26.5% Expect to Lose Income

Urban Transit After COVID-19

Hawaii Shut Down Tourism for a Year and Didn’t Diversify Economy At All

SA: … After more than a year of talk about diversifying Hawaii’s tourism-dependent economy, little progress has been made as isle tourism comes roaring back.

(Translation: The anti-development dream scenario has come and gone and it didn’t work.)

“We’ve learned nothing from our troubled year,” said state Sen. Glenn Wakai, chairman of the state Senate’s Energy, Economic Development, Tourism and Technology Committee. “And as we rebound quicker than anticipated, it seems like there’s even less discussion. … We really lost an opportunity in the past year to really think through what Hawaii’s economy should look like.”

The legislative session began with a State of the State speech by Gov. David Ige on Jan. 25 in which he called for a post-COVID-19 “Hawaii 2.0” economy….

After more than a year of talk about diversifying Hawaii’s tourism-dependent economy, little progress has been made as isle tourism comes roaring back.

“We’ve learned nothing from our troubled year,” said state Sen. Glenn Wakai, chairman of the state Senate’s Energy, Economic Development, Tourism and Technology Committee. “And as we rebound quicker than anticipated, it seems like there’s even less discussion. … We really lost an opportunity in the past year to really think through what Hawaii’s economy should look like.”

The legislative session began with a State of the State speech by Gov. David Ige on Jan. 25 in which he called for a post-COVID-19 “Hawaii 2.0” economy….

In the short term, Bonham said, “it’s still all about tourism. There’s no switch you can suddenly flip and diversify the economy.”….

(Key lessons: Shutting down the economy does not produce diversification. Government mandates do not produce diversification.  Diversification comes from economic growth, not recession.)

read …  After more than a year, Hawaii economy slow to diversify

After Forcing out Ballard, McCarthy May Not Score Interim Chief Gig

KITV: … the commission plans on naming an interim chief.

Traditionally, the department's number two, currently Deputy Chief John McCarthy, is expected to fill in until a new chief is appointed. But Alivado says that has not yet been decided.

(Translation: McCarthy got played.  He did the dirty work, now gets tossed aside.)

"With regard to who that interim chief would be, that is something that commission would be discussing as a body. And it is a decision that lies with the police commission," Alivado said.

KITV-4 confirmed today that McCarthy's been off the job for at least a month, and multiple sources confirm it's a sign of an existing rift among leadership….

Some people believe the desire to see the city's first female police chief succeed may have blinded them to long-running problems within the department.

Moving forward, Alivado addresses what the commission's looking for.

"Someone that officers the rank and file will be able to look up to and work with, in guiding the department and into 2021, we're looking at post COVID responses," Alivado said. "Someone that can be able to, you know, shift if the need arises to situations that are out of the ordinary and just out of the norm."

Alivado says a succession plan will be discussed at the next commission meeting scheduled for April 21st. Barring any immediate need, the commission does not expect to call an emergency meeting before then. …

read … Honolulu Police Commission prepares to begin search for Chief Susan Ballard's replacement

Building Inspector Took Money From A Homeowner. Her Punishment: 2 Years Paid Time Off

CB: … Before five employees in the Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting were indicted by the feds two weeks ago, accused of  accepting bribes, one of their colleagues admitted to cashing a check from a property owner whose plans she was reviewing….

The employee, a supervising building inspector, was making between about $56,500 and $87,000 per year, according to the Department of Human Resources. The inspector’s name was redacted from the records provided to Civil Beat. …

Civil Beat mentioned the employee in a story about paid administrative leave last year. Within days, the employee was “brought back to work,” according to the city human resources department.

However, she immediately requested vacation for the rest of the week. By that Friday, she had resigned. …

In the letter, she requested that the ongoing investigation be closed and that all materials be removed from her file.

She noted that DPP was willing to do that previously when she was “considering my options for a position elsewhere in the City.”

DPP said it gave the case file to HPD Deputy Chief John McCarthy on Jan. 16, 2020, but no charges were ever filed. McCarthy said on Friday that the matter is “still pending investigation.” ….

The same pattern played out with another DPP employee accused of threatening someone. He was put on paid leave in May 2018 and collected a paycheck for two years. 

After Civil Beat’s 2020 story, that person was called back to work in “another section, pending completion of the investigation,” according to the human resources department. However, he too immediately requested vacation and then resigned. 

“Based on the resignations of both DPP employees, the investigations were closed,” human resources said in an emailed statement. …

Collective bargaining agreements allow up to 30 days of leave without pay pending investigations, according to human resources….

After two years of receiving paychecks for no work, the employee wrote in a letter of resignation that she wished to pursue “other business opportunities.” 

read … Another Day in the Nei

Attorney for Kaneshiro Campaign Donors has Conflict of Interest?

HNN: … The attorney representing a powerful Hawaii businessman has issued a public denial following a report that connected her clients to a federal corruption probe into former city Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro. 

However, attorney Sheri Tanaka declined to clarify her statement….

Earlier this month, Hawaii News Now reported that the investigation into Kaneshiro had expanded to include witnesses who donated to his campaigns, including donors connected to powerful businessman Dennis Mitsunaga.

Mitsunaga owns the architectural and engineering firm Mitsunaga and Associates, Inc.

In recent months, employees and their family members have been called to testify before the federal grand jury investigating Kaneshiro. And some of the employees have been called several times….

Among those who have been called to testify: Mitsunaga’s wife, Chan. An interpreter was brought in during her session.

Records show that Chan Mitsunaga donated several times to Kaneshiro’s campaign: $4,000 in 2012 and then a total of $5,000 in 2013. Their daughter, Lois Mitsunaga, also gave to his reelection fund in 2012 and 2015. She was called as a witness at the most recent grand jury session earlier this month….

Legal experts said it could be considered a conflict for Tanaka to represent multiple firm employees at the federal grand jury.

“Usually when there is a criminal investigation and the grand jury, you want an individual person to have their own lawyer to protect their own interests,” said Alexander Silvert, a retired federal public defender.

“In a case like this, where perhaps this attorney is representing the entire company, her loyalty is not to the individual, it’s to the company and that can create a problem.”

Ken Lawson, of the University of Hawaii Law School, agreed.

“The U.S. attorney can go to a federal judge and say, I believe that this lady has a conflict and then the judge can make a determination on whether or not that attorney can represent multiple individuals.”

Lawson pointed out that in 2017, attorneys in a related corruption case ― Myles Breiner and Kevin Sumida ― tried to represent both Katherine and Louis Kealoha. The special prosecutor, Michael Wheat, challenged the representation over conflicts.

The Kealohas eventually ended up with their own, taxpayer-funded attorneys…. 

ILind: HNN reports fed probe of Kaneshiro-Mitsunaga ties

read … Attorney for Kaneshiro campaign donors disputes report connecting clients to corruption probe

‘Safe Travel Cards’ in works

HTH: … Quarantine exemptions for some fully vaccinated travelers could begin as early as May 1.

“Safe Travel Cards,” a type of vaccine passport, could be in place for interisland travelers by that date, Lt. Gov. Josh Green said during a livestream Monday.

Although details are still being finalized, Green, a Big Island physician, said plans for the Safe Travels Card tentatively call for travelers to upload a picture of their vaccine card from the U.S. Centers and Disease Control and Prevention — which are received after getting an inoculation — and to enter the lot number and final vaccination date in a drop-down box.

Vaccine cards will be shown in-person when a traveler arrives, he said.

Behind the scenes, Green said software from companies partnering with the state will work to verify the legitimacy of the vaccination.

“That kind of validation process should be enough for us,” Green said. “We’re debugging it now. What I think will happen is if we do meet our internal deadlines, we’re hopeful that by May 1 we’ll be able to do it for intercounty/interisland travel.

“I’m personally asking if we can possibly do it also for trans-Pacific travel, but it may very well be that the governor and the mayors want to first do it for interisland — which is nice for us as residents — and then a month later, come on board with trans-Pacific travel,” he continued….

VIDEO: WATCH LIVE: Lt. Gov. Josh Green joins the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Spotlight Hawaii

SA: Exemption-for Hawaii-interisland-travelers-could-start May-1

read … ‘Safe Travel Cards’ in works

Kids back full time at only 40% of Hawaii’s public elementary schools

SA: … Nearly 4 in 10 public elementary schools have welcomed back all students who want daily in-person classes, and the rest have kids on campus at least some days, as do virtually all secondary schools….

A new dashboard posted online at the state Department of Education’s web­- site shows each school’s situation: whether they are offering full face-to-face instruction; blended or hybrid instruction with rotating days on campus; or only distance learning….

KITV: Hawaii group warns of unreported child abuse taking place during COVID-19 pandemic

read … Kids back full time at nearly 40% of Hawaii’s public elementary schools 

Price to pay: Increase price for goods sets up challenges for Hawaii restaurants and retailers

KHON: … One of those reasons includes factories overseas and on the mainland shutting down for good. Retail Merchants of Hawaii also points out, shipping inter-island is up 50%.

“You’re going to see, you know, maybe things have gone up a couple of pennies here and there, up to a couple of dollars, up to tens of, you know, tens of dollars, you know, type of thing – it just all depends what you’re purchasing,” she said….

read … Price to pay: Increase price for goods sets up challenges for Hawaii restaurants and retailers

HECO Proposes Large Petroleum-Powered Battery That Will Increase Rates

IM: … Power Plus subsidiary KES proposed a 185-megawatt (MW), 565 MW-hour (MWh) battery energy storage system ("BESS''), to be in Kapolei, on Oahu.

HECO signed an energy storage power purchase agreement (ESPPA) with KES and submitted the application to the PUC.

Senator Glenn Wakai, Chair of the Senate Committee on Energy, Economic Development and Tourism, repeated Hawaiian Electric Company`s assertions that “the KES project will lower Oahu customer bills.”

Wakai urged the Public Utilities Commission to approve the Kapolei Energy Storage (KES) project.

The April 4, 2021 letter concluded, “I am confident that Plus Power can deliver on the KES project, and I enthusiastically encourage the Public Utilities Commission to approve Hawaiian Electric’s application for project approval.”

The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) issued an Order identifying four concerns with the proposed project on April 9, 2021.

The KES battery would be powered by daytime petroleum and discharge electricity in the evening.

“Unlike the other projects, (as low as 9.72 kwh) which are paired with solar generation, the costs in the table (19.11 kwh) exclude the cost of the electricity to charge the battery system in the daytime hours. As noted above, current plans would utilize oil-fueled generation as the primary source of electricity for the Project, so the delivered cost of electricity from the battery system would include these costs along with additional price volatility, creating an even greater contrast in costs.”

“While reducing use of oil-fired generation in the evening, the net impact under HECO's proposed Representative Dispatch is a mere shift of oil-fired generation between these time periods, as the Project's discharge during this evening period will still be from oil-fueled generation.”…

SA: Rush is on to get Hawaii’s renewable energy online

read … HECO Proposes Large Petroleum-Powered Battery That Will Increase Rates

Carbon Pricing Issue Rips Apart Hawai’i Progressive Movement

IM: … The UHERO Draft Carbon Pricing Study released in February 2021 is an economic study.

Words not appearing in the study include “justice”, “resiliency”, and “equality”. The word “resilience” appears once -- in a person`s title. The word "equity" appears once in the title of one of the more than 100 sources listed in the bibliography. The word “sustainability” appears twice -- once in a person`s time and once as part of a webpage address.

The study included supporting economic analyses but did not include, or dispute, opposing economic analyses by environmental justice organizations.

Several groups testified in favor of carbon taxes during 2019-2021 Hawai`i Legislative Sessions, including Americans for Democratic Action, Faith Action for Community Equity, American Lung Association, Nature Conservancy, Audubon, Union of Concerned Scientists, League of Women Voters, Citizens' Climate Lobby, Blue Planet Foundation, Imua Alliance, Ulupono Initiative, Climate Protectors Coalition, Environmental Caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i and Human Environmental Impacts Committee of the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i.

Representative Nicole Lowen recently asserted that considering a carbon tax this legislative session is unwise as many families are struggling financially due to the pandemic….

Marti Townsend, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, Hawai’i Chapter, spoke….

“I am very concerned about low-income households who do not have enough of a cushion in their income to be able to handle a significant increase in the cost of living in general, food, transportation, everything. Especially if the dividend that is to be returned is not returned in a timely fashion…. 

“I`m also concerned about it becoming a source of income, a way of balancing the budget both for the state and for families. And so, any price that we set for carbon needs also be built on the idea that there would be no carbon after a certain date. And so, this drop-dead date is really important….”

Life of the Land`s testimony includes analysis by other groups.

Ireland`s Sinn Féin: “Carbon taxation does not reduce carbon emissions. Carbon tax generates taxes.”

The Indigenous Environmental Network and the Climate Justice Alliance: “Carbon pricing, including carbon trading, carbon taxes and carbon offsets, are false solutions to climate change that do NOT keep fossil fuels in the ground… Carbon pricing is a name for a tool that governments, financial institutions, and corporations have adopted in order to try to reconcile their continuing commitment to fossil fuel use with the need to appear to take action on climate change.”

Food & Water Watch: “Carbon taxes – while popular with economists – have proven to be ineffective at actually reducing emissions in the real world. And according to research prepared for the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, we will actually see an increase in electricity from fracked gas under a carbon tax plan they studied.”

Greenpeace USA: “Proposals for carbon taxes and cap-and-trade have taken up too much climate-solution oxygen in recent years, and so far, they have been flimsy half measures porous with loopholes. They come nowhere close to meeting the scale of the crisis.”

Friends of the Earth: "A carbon price or a market price that is high enough to actually create real change is going to be highly unpopular politically."

Sunrise Movement: "There’s been a predominant conversation in Washington, D.C., that’s been led by economists and politicos that have tried to frame a carbon tax as the only way … It`s proved time and time again to be not politically popular, and we haven`t even priced the policy at where economists say it needs to be. The idea that [a carbon tax is] the way out of this mess is something we need to be pushing back on.”

read … Carbon Pricing Issue Rips Apart Hawai’i Progressive Movement

Big Island Geothermal Agreement On Hold Pending Environmental Review

CB: … Under the proposed agreement between PGV and Hawaiian Electric, the rate paid by the utility to PGV would be fixed instead of linked to the price of oil.

By eliminating that oil market volatility, Hawaiian Electric has maintained that the new contract would yield more stable electricity bills. The new pricing model was crafted following input by the PUC.

But the suspension of the PUC case puts implementation of those plans on hold….

read … Big Island Geothermal Agreement On Hold Pending Environmental Review

HB576 Signed into Law: Nurses Can Perform Abortions

HNN: … Govenor Ige signed a new law Monday that expands abortion services in the state.

House Bill 576 allows Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN) to prescribe medication to end a pregnancy. They can also perform aspiration abortions, a type of minor surgery.

The law is in response to Hawaii’s doctor shortage. Most Hawaii physicians who perform abortions are on Oahu. which limits healthcare options on the neighbor islands.

Gov. Ige said the bill is specifically for abortions of non-viable fetuses….

read … New Hawaii law expands abortion services for non-viable pregnancies

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