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Wednesday, October 13, 2021
October 13, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:07 PM :: 2078 Views

Hawaii COVID-19 Business Mandates Boost Vaccination Rate 8%

DHHL: Al Hee’s Actions Represent ‘clear and present danger’

Maui: No Tents for Anti-Vaxxer Rally

City and County of Honolulu is now accepting Grants In Aid applications

UPDATE: DLNR Targets 'Renegade' Weddings

Belatti’s Auditor Attack Goes up in Flames After 1,000 Junk Cars Discovered

SA Editorial: … The ongoing dogfight playing out at the Legislature between state Auditor Les Kondo and House Majority Leader Della Au Belatti is either embarrassing or amusing, depending on your tolerance for dysfunction in high places….

The state House mandated a performance audit of the agency, and Kondo’s office delivered in January. Its key findings were brutal: After 25-plus years the agency had done little to support the development of diversified agriculture, its record- keeping was abysmal and the board of directors barely provided oversight. Worse, criminal activity — not farming — was rampant on some properties.

This audit and another of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources are ostensibly the reasons that Belatti, as head of a House Investigative Committee, has Kondo in the hot seat. Regarding the ADC, exchanges have been prickly when they focused on how the audit was conducted, but committee members have also sought answers on the audit’s most troubling findings, and the reform needed.

Then came the fire. Two weeks ago, a brush fire torched 50 acres of ADC land in Wahiawa. Left exposed: an illegal dumpsite of some 1,000 junked cars. The images on the TV news were a striking indictment of the agency’s neglect of the parcel. The audit pointed out that ADC spent $63 million from 2013 to 2019 to acquire more than 2,300 acres in Central Oahu — would-be farmland that remains 75% vacant and vulnerable to criminal uses like this one….

HNN: Crews begin massive clean-up of burned out auto graveyard in Central Oahu

read … Editorial: Ag land agency needs a reboot

Phony Baloney: Contemptable Hawaii House Panel Warns It May Hold The State Auditor In Contempt

CB: … Rep. Della Au Belatti tells Les Kondo she wants audit documents by the end of business Wednesday, or else. …

Belatti told her committee members that she is rejecting State Auditor Les Kondo’s request — in letters on Sept. 28 and Oct. 5 — for more time to respond to the committee’s demands….

Kondo described the committee’s latest move — subpoenaing the state auditor’s office for the documents — as “unfair and unreasonable.”

“This is not a parking ticket, this is criminal contempt. This is serious,” he said, explaining that penalties could result in up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Kondo said Belatti’s committee had put the auditor’s office “in an impossible position,” arguing that complying with the subpoena could lead to his office possibly violating state law….

He said his office is seeking outside legal representation, as the state attorney general would have an obvious conflict in trying to both prosecute and defend the State Auditor….

Kondo complained that the House committee’s investigation was chartered to examine the ADC and DLNR audits but has instead become an investigation into Kondo and his office.

“What’s going on is not right,” he said, adding that he expected to retain legal counsel within 30 days….

What This is About: Hanabusa Attack on Auditor is all about hiding corruption in the Office of Hawaiian Affairs

Background: Legislators Finally Spring Trap on Auditor Kondo

CB: Hawaii House Panel Warns It May Hold The State Auditor In Contempt

No COVID Relief on Hawaiian Homelands Thanks to Al Hee’s Greed 

CB: … Hee was convicted of federal tax evasion and sentenced to 46 months in federal prison in 2016, and the FCC fined Hee nearly $50 million last year for violations of Universal Service Fund rules that resulted in millions of dollars in overpayments to his companies, including SIC. Hee was released after serving his federal sentence.

(Al Hee hasn’t paid that $50M fine.)

Hee’s daughter Breanne Kahalewai was listed as president of Sandwich Isles Communication as of last May, but it was Albert Hee who addressed members of the Broadband Hui last March to explain his concerns with the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit program.

Hee’s comments during a video call with the loose-knit organization known as the Hawaii Broadband Hui came as members of the hui were organizing a public relations campaign to encourage Hawaii residents to apply for the subsidies. But Hee argued the program was poorly designed.

In order to participate, the internet providers are required to provide discounted service to customers, and the FCC then reimburses the providers for that cost.

“We’d love to participate in the FCC initiative, but the way the FCC initiatives are made is … when the user uses that money, that supposed money that the FCC gives to them, the way that they give it to them is to take it away from the provider, and they’re supposed to reimburse the provider for it,” Hee said in the March video call.

“The FCC has found it, uh, whatever, in their interest not to reimburse Sandwich Isles for these monies that they supposedly have given to the user,” Hee said.

(Translation: If I give you free service, the FCC will deduct that cost from the $50M I owe them.  I just want you to keep on paying me and I will not be paying FCC ever.) 

Related: DHHL: Al Hee’s Actions Represent ‘clear and present danger’

read … Hawaiian Home Lands Residents May Be Out Of Luck When It Comes To Help With Broadband Bills

Lodging tax hike looms: Hawaii County Council to discuss adding 3% to TAT

HTH: … Bill 81, scheduled for Tuesday’s Finance Committee agenda, would impose an additional 3% local tax on top of the current 10.25% state transient accommodations tax….

The Legislature paved the way for the additional lodging tax in a gut-and-replace bill passed without public input earlier this year. HB 862 took away the counties’ share and gave it to the state, while allowing the counties to pass their own local-option tax up to 3% for up to 10 years.

Kauai and Maui have already passed the tax for the full amount; the Honolulu City Council recently advanced its bill on first reading on a 7-2 vote….

If all counties pass the measure, the resulting 13.25% tax makes Hawaii the state with the highest lodging tax in the nation, Mufi Hannemann, president and CEO of the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association, has said. Hannemann warned the additional tax could hinder the state’s ability to compete in the tourism market.

The tax is imposed on hotel rooms and rentals of less than 180 days….

(Your $1,000 month rent just went up by $132.50.)

Kimball said Finance Department officials estimate the proposed tax will bring the county back up to its $19 million annually within three years….

read … Lodging tax hike looms: Council to discuss adding 3% to TAT

Why change rule on short-term rentals?

SA: …The Honolulu Planning Commission recently advanced a proposal to increase the minimum number of days that a property can be rented without a special permit from 30 days to 180 days. The reported intention of the Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP)’s proposal “is to cut down on the number of illegal vacation rentals that are taking permanent housing away from local residents.”

Honestly, I don’t understand how a new rule of 180 days minimal rental in most residential neighborhoods is going to help find permanent housing and solve the housing problem for local residents, especially when everyone knows the real problem is affordable housing for those who cannot afford the current rates….

homeowners associations have been monitoring and enforcing their rules on the minimum number of days owners are allowed to rent their units quite effectively, and in many cases, most have already extended the minimum beyond the 30 days currently allowed by rule….

While I may not be housing long-term local residents all the time, as a local owner, I help meet the needs of our community by providing shelter to people who come here to serve our community for short but meaningful periods of time. It seems that the DPP plans to address this by issuing special permits for special categories of renters, and, no doubt, burdening short-term lessors with additional costs, in order to hire more enforcement staff.

Also, no details have yet been announced on what would be involved in getting a special permit, its cost and duration, how to prove a tenant meets an exemption category, how the rule would be enforced, how it would affect property taxes, how many times would one have to apply, and what happens when a lessor is able to find a long-term renter, etc. Would we be able to get a refund?

Without such vital information, how can the public give input into the matter before a final decision on the new rule is made?

With ever-increasing property taxes, maintenance fees, insurance fees and costs of maintaining properties in good condition, it is very difficult to lower our rents and still survive.

If additional costs are involved, lessors will have no alternative but to add it to the rent. I believe these issues should be given full consideration before any rules are changed. And I can’t help but wonder who, truly, will benefit from this?

read … Why change rule on short-term rentals?

How many Hawaii people are on food stamps?

SA: …  Hawaii had a total of 189,956 SNAP recipients in September, according to the state Department of Human Services, which is down from the pandemic­-era peak of 206,226 in July 2021 but higher than a pre-pandemic total of 152,252 in February 2020.

In 2019, before Hawaii’s economy was restricted during the pandemic, an average of about $37 million in SNAP benefits were paid per month. Since March 2020, the monthly average has risen to $79 million, according to a news release from the department in June.

As for Medicaid, the department’s website says an “unprecedented” 427,839 individuals in Hawaii received their health insurance through Med-QUEST/Medicaid as of July 16, a 31% increase from before the pandemic. The total accounts for 30% of Hawaii’s overall population and 50% of its children, it said.

Hawaii’s Department of Labor and Industrial Relations reported paying out nearly $6.5 billion in unemployment compensation from March 1, 2020, through Oct. 7, 2021, the vast majority of it through federal unemployment programs that expired the first week of September, including the plus-up you mentioned. Only about $1.9 billion of the total was through the state’s regular Unemployment Insurance program, which is funded by taxes on employers and is the only unemployment compensation program processing new claims. About $4.6 billion came from the now-expired federal programs.

As for other benefits you may be eligible for, there’s rent aid and utility aid for renters available in Honolulu County; the application portal is open, according to the website oneoahu.org….

read … How many Hawaii people are on food stamps?

LG campaign: Losers, Has-beens and Failures

CB: … The potential LG candidates for 2022 are starting to step forward. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Sherry Menor-McNamara has registered a campaign committee with the state Campaign Spending Commission.  (Sherry Menor is Ron Menor’s First Cousin.) Former state Sen. Jill Tokuda, who ran for LG in 2018 and placed second to Green, has announced her intention to run, as has Ron Menor, a former city councilman, former state representative, former state senator and failed candidate for Congress.

Former City Council member Ikaika Anderson, who quit before his term in office was over just a year ago saying he needed time to take care of his grandparents — and coincidentally, at the very same time landed a nice union job — now has the time to run for LG.

There will no doubt be more names in coming months. The office can be an attractive plum. The job traditionally offers status without much responsibility, a smooth way to “pay dues” on the way to higher office. For example, Congressman Brian Schatz catapulted to the U.S. Senate after two years as Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s LG….

HNN: Former City Council chair criticized by constituent at Lt. Gov. campaign launch  “How can you stand there and look at us with straight face and say you represent the people?” the unnamed man said as Anderson tried to answer. “This park, you bragged about taking care of this park. Look at the condition here, you’re right in the center of it.” 

The man continued, “(There’s) still illegal commercial activity going on in here with the kayaks, with the boats, with the sailing, with the kite boards. How can you stand there and look us in the face with a straight face and give us all of this garbage that you’re throwing out now?”…

SA: Potential candidates who have filed campaign “organizational reports” with the state Campaign Spending Commission include Joey Manahan, a former legislator and city councilman who is currently spokesman for the city’s rail project…

read … Candidates For LG May Find The Game Has Changed

Hawaii hospitals catching up on postponed procedures, but Hilo still grappling with COVID patients

HNN: … On Tuesday morning, Hilo Medical Center’s intensive care unit was nearly 40% over capacity. Hospital officials say the majority have been diagnosed with coronavirus.

“Our ICU has 11 beds. Currently, we have 15 ICU level patients,” said Hilo Medical Center Infection Control Manager Chad Shibuya. “Cases in the community are down. Unfortunately, patients who come to the hospital for COVID stay a really long time. Usually over 20 days.” ….

He says rooms had to be converted into makeshift ICU units so there would be space to care for all the patients ― nearly 70% of whom were diagnosed with COVID.

Statewide, hospitals remain busy. But officials say the vast majority are in a much better place than they were a month ago.

The challenge now: Addressing backlogs in care.

“Straub and Pali Momi ― their ICUs are still quite full,” said Hilton Raethel, head of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii.

But he said that’s partly due to pent-up demand for medical procedures that were postponed over the past couple months because of the COVID surge….

read … Hawaii hospitals catching up on postponed procedures, but Hilo still grappling with COVID patients

Hawaii Gives One COVID Vaccine Shots to 91.2% of Residents Over 12

NW: … Of its total population, 69.6 percent is fully vaccinated as of October 12.

Breaking this down, for those aged 12 and above, the eligible population to be vaccinated, 81.5 percent is fully vaccinated.

Then looking at individuals who have received at least one dose, for the 12 and above population this is 91.2 percent.

The website gives an estimated figure of 106,834 for eligible unvaccinated individuals.

read … Fact Check: Has Hawaii Given COVID Vaccine Shots to 90% of Residents Over 12?

Supreme Court: No More Expedited Releases For Hawaii Inmates--‘Risk to Public far Outweighs risk of COVID’

CB: … The state Office of the Public Defender filed a request for a third round of releases in late August, but the court rejected that request on Tuesday, noting that about two-thirds of Hawaii inmates had been vaccinated by mid-September….

Hawaii was holding a total of nearly 4,100 inmates as of Monday in state facilities and in a privately-run prison in Arizona. In all, more than 2,900 inmates have been infected, and the virus has been blamed in at least nine inmate deaths….

“The widespread availability of vaccines and testing means that inmates are no longer at the kind of risk they faced when the pandemic first started,” he said in the statement. “The risk to the public should these inmates be released far outweighs the risk they face from COVID-19 in jail.”…

read … Supreme Court: No More Expedited Releases For Hawaii Inmates

Assault Charge Filed Against Honolulu Developer Dismissed By Court

CB: … An assault charge filed against a prominent Honolulu developer was dismissed earlier this year after the court determined the case had dragged on too long. 

Bert Akio “B.J.” Kobayashi was accused of slapping a woman in June 2018 at the Azure Restaurant at the Royal Hawaiian, the police report states, and he was charged with third-degree assault in April 2019.

Kobayashi is the chairman and CEO of BlackSand Capital, a local real estate private equity firm, and founding partner of the Kobayashi Group, a property development and real estate investment company. …

By May 2020, the case had been marked “inactive” in court records. The Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney’s Office said the case couldn’t proceed because it was unable to locate Kobayashi to serve him a summons. …

read … Assault Charge Filed Against Honolulu Developer Dismissed By Court

New body cam video shows bizarre encounter before fatal police shooting in Nuuanu

HNN: … The body camera video starts with an officer who just arrived on scene about 7:40 p.m. He is startled because Myeni tries to get into the patrol car.

“I was walking this way and I thought I should get in. I thought wrong, I’m sorry,” Myeni said to the officer, who asks him to get away from the car. The officer and Myeni are both polite and respectful throughout the exchange, which lasts about three minutes….

“Can I help you?” the officer asked.

“I was driven by a car and got me here,” Myeni answered.

“I need to find a boat or some way to meet people,” Myeni answered.

He said he was looking for someone but the Honolulu Police Department bleeped out the name he said on the video.

The officer seems confused, asking if he can call that person. Myeni grabs his phone and starts dialing, as he walks away….

read … New body cam video shows bizarre encounter before fatal police shooting in Nuuanu

The hotel next door

ILind: … You may recall that back in April, police officers responding to a 911 call shot and killed a 29-year old from South Africa, Lindani Myeni, outside a home at 91 Coelho Way in lower Nuuanu…

State real property records show the current registered owner of the property is James H. Hall, a former contractor who moved to Hawaii from Wisconsin with his wife and four children at the beginning of 2009, after his business had gone bankrupt and their home was lost through foreclosure.

Records show Hall purchased Greentree Properties LLC, a Nevada company that held title to the Coelho Way property, in September 2018 from Honolulu attorney Gary Dubin, who has since been disbarred by the Hawaii Supreme Court. Three months later, Hall transferred title in the property from Greentree to himself.

A week after the fatal shooting, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported the home had previously been the subject of complaints about illegal short-term rentals.

In 2019 and 2020 the city Department of Planning and Permitting investigated seven complaints that 91 Coelho Way was being used as an illegal short-term rental. Rentals of fewer than 30 days are not allowed at the property, said DPP spokesman Curtis Lum.

In addition, according to the Star-Advertiser, police officers also responded to several other incidents at the home, including a car break-in, a possible COVID violation, a car accident, and a “miscellaneous incident.”…

“Our investigation determined that the ads were for 30 days or more, which is not a violation,” Lum told Star-Advertiser reporter Peter Boylan. “On-site inspections of the property did not reveal an illegal short-term rental on this property.”…

What wasn’t known at the time is that the Hall applied for and received received four federal Payroll Protection Program loans during 2020 and 2021 that totaled over $215,000, including two that classed his businesses as operating a hotel or motel.

In each year, separate loans went to Greentree Properties LLC, the Nevada company owned by Hall since 2018, and to a sole proprietorship also owned by Hall, PPP loan records show.

All four loans were made by First National Bank Texas. These were the only PPP loans made by the bank in Hawaii.

Greentree received a PPP loan of $96,656 in 2021. Greentree’s loan application was approved on April 9, just two days before Myeni’s shooting. Despite applying for and receiving the PPP loan, based on a prior year’s payroll, Greentree Properties is not listed among companies registered to do business in Hawaii, state business registration records show.

Hall’s sole proprietorship received $29,165 in 2021, according to the PPP lookup at the website, FederalPay.org. Both company’s applications reported they were in an industry category for “Hotels (except Casino Hotels) and Motels.”…

FederalPay.org examined loan eligibility criteria, and estimated the annual payroll of $464,000 was required to qualify for the loan awarded to Greentree Properties in 2021….

In the earlier round of PPP loans distributed in 2020, Hall received a loan of $20,800, while Greentree received a loan of $69,000. Both companies listed themselves in a different category, this one defined as “other services to buildings and dwellings.”…

Greentree Properties LLC, a Nevada limited liability company, had been established in 2007 by former Honolulu attorney Gary Victor Dubin to hold title to the Coelho Way property. Dubin had sole control of Greentree from 2007 until September 2018, when he reportedly sold his interest in the company to Hall, court records show.

Then on November 26, 2018, Hall, now acting as the sole member of Greentree, executed a quit-claim deed transferring title to the Coelho Way property from the company to himself personally. Honolulu real property records now list Hall as the property’s sole owner….

read … The hotel next door

PUC Hearing: Community Opposition to Wind and Solar Projects

IM: … Rural communities from Kahuku to Waianae are experiencing the flood of new solar and wind projects that take up valuable agricultural lands and open space, altering community perceptions.

A wide range of community groups and statewide non-profits are raising concerns about new forms of environmental justice, where rural communities are burdened to provide cheaper energy for urban communities.

The Hawai`i Public Utilities Commission has recently required greater discussions between developers and communities. These requirements have been written into utility requests for proposals. In addition, the Commission has forced HECO to enter meaningful two-way dialogue with energy stakeholders in regulatory proceedings….

The Commission has put on hold the MECO request to release a Molokai request for proposals for new energy projects to enable the Ho'ahu Energy Cooperative Molokai and the Molokai Clean Energy Hui (MCEH) to engage in a community-wide effort to shape their island`s future….

The Public Utilities Commission is hosting a virtual public meeting on Wednesday October 13, 2021, at 6:30 p.m. to hear community suggestions on how to improve the next wave of Community-Based Renewable Energy procurements….

Online (via web browser or WebEx mobile device app)

Link: https://hpuc.my.webex.com/hpuc.my/j.php?MTID=mccdd85bdee5621799b9b373fcd764925

Meeting Number: 2552 564 3131

Meeting Password: hmUKKUqn433 (46855876 from phones and video systems) 

read … Public Utilities Commission Seeking to Engage the Public re Project Siting

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