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Friday, July 9, 2021
July 9, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:04 PM :: 2910 Views

Special Session Totals: Six Overrides, Three Amendments

COVID 'Hazard Pay': HGEA Scores 25% Pay Hike

HB613: HGEA Cheers Veto of Teachers' Bonus

Kauai Drug Treatment Center to be Deeded to HHSC

First Time Homebuyer? Honolulu Among Worst in USA

Hawaii Energy: Highest Cost, Lowest Usage

Ige Appoints Ethics Director Daniel Gluck to ICA

Hana Hwy: HTA asks visitors to travel with tour companies

Covering up for Caldwell Admin--Ethics Commission Quietly Drops Kealoha Investigation

CB: … The Honolulu Ethics Commission hired two outside attorneys to investigate the Kealohas as well as the people who had previously scrutinized their wrongdoing….

In February, after a closed door meeting, the commission voted unanimously to drop its ongoing investigation into the retired police chief and his former prosecutor wife, citing their federal convictions in 2019 for conspiracy, obstruction of justice and other crimes.

The decision to abandon the investigation was made quietly despite years of acrimony and high profile controversy, and was reflected only in the commission’s Feb. 17 meeting minutes posted to the city’s website….

Despite the commission’s decision, there are still plenty of questions remaining about the agency’s role in one of the largest public corruption scandals in Hawaii state history.

“It would have been good to have some self-reflection as to why the Honolulu Ethics Commission process seemed to be able to be manipulated and gamed in such a way by the Kealohas,” said Sandy Ma, executive director of Common Cause Hawaii. “I don’t know if that self-reflection occurred, and I haven’t seen it.”…

(Ma has a gift for understatement.  Here is what the Ethics Comm is covering up by shutting down the investigation….)

the commission’s former executive director, Chuck Totto, and his investigator, Letha DeCaires, had launched a series of investigations into the Kealohas’ potential wrongdoing in 2014, long before the FBI discovered something might be amiss.

Totto testified during the Kealohas’ trial that the couple retaliated against him and DeCaires by lodging their own series of ethics complaints alleging they were the victims of malicious investigations by the commission.

The Kealohas even filed a number of lawsuits seeking to thwart the investigations.

The pushback had the intended effect. Totto and DeCaires were removed from the case and both eventually lost their jobs.

Totto in particular had long been at odds with Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and his administration. The Kealoha matter only added to the friction.

Totto resigned after a series of conflicts with top officials in Caldwell’s cabinet and growing disagreements with several of the mayor’s appointees to the commission, namely Victoria Marks, Allene Suemori and Riki May Amano.

DeCaires, meanwhile, was forced out after Caldwell’s managing director, Roy Amemiya, refused to renew her contract.

Amemiya has since been named a target of the U.S. Justice Department’s ongoing criminal investigation into alleged corruption in city government…

Donna Leong, who was Caldwell’s top city attorney while he was mayor, has also received a target letter from the DOJ for her role in executing a $250,000 retirement deal for Louis Kealoha when he was named a criminal suspect….

read … Ethics Commission Quietly Drops Kealoha Investigation As Questions Swirl

Behind closed doors: Reapportionment Commission could become less transparent

WHT: … A powerful commission tasked with redrawing political boundary lines for Hawaii’s state and congressional districts appears headed for more secrecy than in previous years, with the formation of private permitted interaction groups in lieu of publicly held committee hearings.

Establishing draft rules to take most of its work behind closed doors consumed most of an hour-long meeting of the Reapportionment Commission on Tuesday, with a substantial portion of the meeting held in executive session as the commission sought advice from its attorney on whether the process of setting up the permitted interaction groups followed the Sunshine Law….

Sandy Ma, executive director of Common Cause Hawaii, asked that the permitted interaction groups be voided and redone to follow Sunshine Law requirements.

Becky Gardner, a former staffer for a Big Island legislator, echoed Ma’s concerns.

“I ask that this commission err on the side of greater transparency and greater accountability,” she said. “The more open this process is above and beyond the Sunshine Law, … (we’ll) have more people engaged and we won’t have challenges like we did in 2011.”

The commission emerged from its closed door session with Chairman Mark Mugiishi saying the formation of the groups to develop procedures and prepare proposed reapportionment plans was legal, but the commission will vote on them at the next meeting to comply with the Sunshine Law.

“All of the commissioners are confident the proceedings were legal and were proper,” Mugiishi said.

Hawaii Island’s only representative on the commission, Dylan Nonaka, a Kailua-Kona real estate broker, said the commission plans to offer the public the chance to build their own maps once the numbers and the software are in place. Draft maps will be taken to each island for public hearings, he said…..

The Supreme Court has presumed a plan is unconstitutional if districts are 10% larger or smaller than the ideal population, which is derived by dividing the total population by the number of districts.

That means the ideal population of each of the 51 House districts in the state would be about 28,535, or, from 25,681 to 31,388 to stay within the 10% deviation. The ideal population for the 25 state Senate districts would be 56,635 or between 50,971 and 62,298 to stay within the 10% deviation….

read … Behind closed doors: Reapportionment Commission could become less transparent

Honolulu Police Commission nominee to face questions posed by community

SA: … Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s third nominee for the Honolulu Police Commission, Ann Botticelli, likely will face questions regarding her lack of criminal justice background and motivation to be on the commission by City Council members as she advances in the confirmation process.

Botticelli’s nomination drew a more nuanced response from community members in comparison with Blangiardi’s past two nominees who were widely opposed. His first nominee, Benjamin Mahi, a former Honolulu police officer, withdrew his nomination after questions were raised about a suspension while he was on the force. The Council rejected Blangiardi’s second nominee, Larry Ignas, after he denied the existence of racism in Hawaii….

Of the 26 written testimonies submitted regarding Botticelli’s nomination, which was introduced at the City Council meeting on Wednesday, eight were in support and five were in opposition. The other 13 did not support or oppose her nomination, but asked questions about her motivations to be on the Police Commission, her lack of criminal justice experience and her position on racial inequality for Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander and Black communities….

read … Honolulu Police Commission nominee to face questions posed by community

Maui county seeks a new visitor hotel tax that could rake in millions more

HNN: … Maui County officials are rushing to impose new visitor accommodations taxes after the state legislature overrode a controversial veto by the governor this week.

“This will help tremendously,” said Maui County Council Chair Alice Lee.

Until now, counties have relied on the legislature to pass on a portion of the 10% state hotel room tax.

The law now allows the counties to collect another 3% and keep it for themselves….

Chair Lee said that will bring Maui nearly triple the revenue.

“Instead of $23 million, we’ll probably receive in the neighborhood of $50 to $70 million,” Lee said….

State Representative and House Finance Chair Sylvia Luke said under the old system, Oahu got the most money because of its larger population. Now the counties will be paid based on how many visitors stay there.  Luke said it is long overdue and Maui stands to benefit the most from the new system…. 

read … Maui county seeks a new visitor hotel tax that could rake in millions more

39,000 Arrive on Day One of Vaccination Travel

HNN: … In rules that took effect Thursday, visitors from the mainland can skip quarantine and getting a COVID test ― as long as they got their shots in the United States and are fully vaccinated….

Kurihara was one of nearly 39,000 travelers who arrived in Hawaii on Thursday using the state’s Safe Travels program ― and a vaccination or pre-travel test to avoid a mandatory 10-day quarantine.

“I was so nervous because we had to download the app and it seemed super confusing,” said vistor Alayna Izen, who flew in from Portland.

Izen said when she uploaded her vaccine card “there wasn’t anything that said that it was accepted or approved or anything so I was worried I was going to get here and they were going to tell me I did it wrong.”

Much to her surprise, she says, Alaska Airlines pre-checked passengers’ vaccination documents before even taking off.

“They gave you a wristband,” said Izen. “I was all done before we even got here which was not what I was expecting. It was really nice.”

Many passengers who did have to have their documents screened after arrival said the process wasn’t bad.

“We thought it was going to take a lot longer based on the line,” said George Vuong. “I think it moved pretty quickly.”

Kurihara added, “They have the process kind of down.”…

Do The Math: 39,000 x 30 = 1,170,000 per month x 12 = 14 Million Tourists 

read … Vaccinated travelers report long (but fast-moving) airport lines on first day of eased rules     

Gabbard wants Beach Police to Check your Sunscreen, Write Tickets

MN: …The lawmaker also plans to reintroduce Senate Bill 132 in the next session that bans the sale, offer for sale or distribution in the state of any sunscreen that contains reef-harming chemicals avobenzone or octocrylene, or both, without a prescription issued by a licensed health care provider.

Because the current sunscreen law focuses on retailers, it does not restrict visitors or residents from bringing or purchasing products from out of state, and so there won’t be “beach police roaming the beaches asking to see your tube of sunscreen and writing you a ticket if you’re not in compliance,” Gabbard said.

Regulating and enforcing these laws requires more manpower, time and resources, Gabbard said, and not one department “wanted to take on the responsibility.”

“We’re willing to address that,” he said.

Maui County Council Member Tamara Paltin recently proposed a bill that would amend the current County Code and include the “ban of use and distribution” of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate….

Reality: Chemical Company Behind Anti-Sunscreen Campaign

read … Advocates hope to expand ban on reef-harming sunscreens

How bad is inflation in Hawaii really?

PBN: … How much inflation is there? According to, as of May, the U.S. inflation rate was 4.99%. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says 5%.

Of course, we’re talking about government statistics here and data can be altered by changing what is being measured. argues that using the 1980 methodology behind the consumer price index, today’s inflation rate would weigh in at around 12%. Using 1990’s methodology, it’s 9%.

All I know for sure is, I dropped $160 bucks at Safeway last week and I walked out with just two bags of ordinary groceries and a cake for the Fourth of July. Yowza.

Another data point: According to, a gallon of regular gasoline in Hawaii went from about $3.43 last July to about $4.05 now. That’s an 18% increase.

There’s another clue to the true inflation rate on senior editor Janis L. Magin’s page in this week's issue about the pace of occupancy loss slowing down for the Oahu retail market.

Colliers International Hawaii and Food Gurus Hawaii have data showing that the average restaurant bill has increased 6% from January to May of this year. If the same holds true for the rest of the year, then, yep, Hawaii’s real world inflation rate is 12% no matter what the feds say it is….

read … How bad is inflation in Hawaii really? 

Alleged Child Molester Gets New Trial

HNN: … After serving five years in prison, a Kaneohe man’s sex assault conviction has been set aside by the Hawaii Supreme Court because of prosecutorial misconduct.

Matthew Williams was convicted in 2016 of sexually assaulting a teenage boy and was sentenced to 20 years in prison….

“The prosecutor introduced to the jury incriminating statements, allegedly made by Williams, without previously disclosing them to the defense,” the high court wrote.

“The prosecutor also introduced statements, incriminating to the defendant, allegedly made by the complaining witness despite the court’s motion ... barring their introduction. Finally, the prosecutor engaged in improper, unnecessarily lurid questioning of defense witnesses to inflame the jury.”…

Eric Seitz, William’s lawyer, said his client ― a professional photographer ― had no criminal record and has struggled behind bars.

“He was one of the earlier people who contracted COVID in the Saguaro facility and apparently had a very bad case and was very sick. Altogether, this has been a horrific experience for him,” Seitz said….

read … A judge predicted his conviction would be overturned. After he served 5 years in prison, it was.

After Inmates Purposefully Spread COVID, Criminal Defense Lawyers Sue PSD

CB: … The lawsuit on behalf of Hawaii inmates asks that a (soft-on-crime) public health expert be appointed to (order mass releases of criminals) oversee the pandemic response in Hawaii prisons and jails. …

…the lawsuit filed on behalf of the inmates in June points out that major COVID-19 outbreaks have occurred in six correctional facilities holding Hawaii inmates, and about half the state’s inmate population has been infected. In all, the Department of Public Safety reports 2,188 inmates caught the coronavirus since the pandemic began more than a year ago.

The department reports nine inmates have died of the respiratory disease, and at least two others had the disease when they died. Autopsies done in Arizona in those two cases concluded the prisoners died of health conditions such as obesity and diabetes, rather than COVID-19.

(11/2188 = 0.5% this is not going to reduce overcrowding much)

Attorney Gina May Szeto-Wong, who argued the case on behalf of the inmates, cited a New York Times article that found Hawaii inmates are nearly 16 times more likely to become infected with the coronavirus than other residents in the islands.

(Inmates) Corrections officials “knowingly and recklessly exposed (each other) inmates … to a highly contagious, potentially lethal virus” in violation of the inmates’ constitutional rights (an effort to make up a justification for this lawsuit seeking their mass release) Szeto-Wong said (with accuracy inducing corrections introduced by editor)….

“What motive do these inmates have to fabricate?” Otake asked. “They’re not seeking release, they’re not seeking money, so tell me what motive they have” to lie..  

(Wow.  Just wow.)

read … Federal Court Case: Corrections Officials Botched COVID-19 Response In Prisons

Biden to Target Ocean Shipping in Executive Order

WSJ: …The administration says the relatively small number of major players in the ocean-shipping trade and in the U.S. freight rail business has enabled companies to charge unreasonable fees….

The call to crack down on ocean carriers and freights is one facet in a multipronged executive order that will be one of President Biden’s most sweeping unilateral moves on economic policy to date….

Among other things, the executive order will call on the Federal Trade Commission to adopt rules that curtail noncompete agreements. The White House said roughly half of U.S. private-sector businesses use noncompete agreements, affecting an estimated 30 million people….

SA: Matson forecasts quarterly profit nearly double 1st three months of 2021 

read … Biden to Target Railroads, Ocean Shipping in Executive Order

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