New Administration’s Tax Priorities
Hawaii Congressional Delegation How They Voted December 10, 2022
Knowledge is key to Jones Act reform
"Very interesting coalition" for Jones Act Reform
Next Rail Project: Bamboozled Taxpayers on Hook for Stadium Project
SA: …Other state leaders don’t appear to be fully on board with resuming the P3 process for the stadium district. House Speaker Scott Saiki (D, Downtown- Kakaako-McCully) told the Star-Advertiser on Saturday that his understanding is that taxpayers could be on the hook for decades for projects with an undefined ceiling for construction, maintenance and other costs.
Saiki said he doesn’t believe the NASED plan is even a true private-public partnership, which he said usually involves a private developer footing the bill for construction and recouping costs from revenue generated by the completed project. He said P3 agreements aren’t common in Hawaii because it’s questionable whether major projects like the new stadium can generate adequate revenue.
“It’s basically a taxpayer project. It includes the $350 million appropriation from the Legislature as well as guaranteed payments from the state over the next 30 or 40 years,” Saiki said. “In the last version of the RFP, there was no requirement for the private parties to assume the financial cost of this project.” …
Most of all, Saiki said, he doesn’t want taxpayers to get “bamboozled” as he claims they have been with the increasing costs and delays of the Honolulu rail system over the past decade.
“I do not want the stadium to turn into another rail project, where costs fly out of control and taxpayers are forced to pay the bill,” Saiki said….
Big Q: Should a public-private partnership (P3) path be resumed for the Aloha Stadium redevelopment project?
SA Editorial: Put public first in any stadium deal
RELATED: Carpenters Union Director Heads List of Green Appointees
read … Governor greenlights public-private partnership for stadium
Tokioka: I Take Checks not Bribes
TGI: … Kaua‘i legislators characterized recent public corruption cases as isolated incidents, not indicative of a systemic problem.
“There are a few bad apples that create this black cloud over the legislative body and all public servants,” said Nakamura. “It’s unfortunate because I believe the majority of public servants are in it for the right reasons.”
(So the minority are in for the bribes? That means a maximum of 37 of 76 legislators are on the take.)
Tokioka echoed that sentiment.
“For the most part, the legislators don’t partake in that kind of practice,” he said….
Tokioka said, while he sometimes received checks during the session…..
(Translation: Experienced legislators know how to get paid off legally.)
“When you work with industries and unions, and you’re knowledgeable and listen and you try to help wherever you can — you don’t have to do a fundraiser for them to write you a check,” Tokioka said.…
(Translation: Experienced influence buyers know how to buy influence legally.)
read … Kaua‘i lawmakers on anti-corruption proposals: Money in politics
Hawaii in trouble if high court shackles U.S. prosecutors
Shapiro: … As reported by Politico, the Supreme Court is increasingly skeptical of using federal law to police local corruption, striking down a bribery conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell in 2016 and fraud convictions of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s allies in 2020.
Two weeks ago justices seemed equally dubious in questioning attorneys about a corruption case involving developers tied to former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
A comment by Justice Clarence Thomas went to the heart of Hawaii’s problem: “What is curious about this case is that the state of New York doesn’t seem to be upset about this arrangement. It seems as though we are using a federal law to impose ethical standards on state activity.”
It could similarly be argued the state of Hawaii — at least as represented by its attorney general — didn’t seem upset that two state legislators accepted cash and casino chips to derail legislation for a cesspool executive, or that county regulators accepted bribes to OK permits, or that a former Honolulu police chief and his prosecutor wife used their offices to commit fraud.
A commission appointed by House Speaker Scott Saiki to suggest improved standards of conduct proposed tighter ethics, lobbying and campaign finance laws, as well as giving Hawaii enforcers more tools to fight corruption such as fraud statutes used by federal prosecutors.
These would clearly help, but the problem may be more in little motivation of local enforcers to attack graft.
The attorney general, appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate, is a creature of the political system the office is supposed to police.
Former Attorney General Margery Bronster, who investigated corrupt trustees of Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate, was voted down by the Senate for a second term at the behest of powerful trustees, one of whom was a former Senate president.
Perhaps it’s time to bolster the attorney general’s independence by making the office elected and nonpartisan, as the counties do with their prosecuting attorneys to varying success….
read … Hawaii in trouble if high court shackles U.S. prosecutors
Legislature creates the fertile ground for corruption
SA Editorial: … Leadership of the House and Senate pledged very publicly to clean things up, but the product so far has been deeply disappointing. Example: One bland measure that did pass was a curb on political fundraising events during the legislative session. It stopped short of banning solicitation or acceptance of donations during the session, when proposed laws undergo decision-making review….
In evaluating the Legislature’s commitment to weed out corruption, one thing becomes clear. While lawmakers are willing to take limited steps warding off external corrupting influences such as fundraising events, there has been little interest in putting their own house in order….
To a large extent, it’s the way laws are written and passed, often brokered by high-ranking committee leaders with insufficient transparency to the public, that creates the fertile ground for corruption….
read … Legislature must clean up its act
GOP leaders laud gov on food, drug tax idea
Borreca: … Green campaigned against Hawaii’s tax on food and medicine.
Oddly enough, this is such a GOP principle, it is one of the first issues mentioned in the Hawaii GOP platform.
“The state must aggressively reform and measurably reduce current taxes and fees. Specifically: Remove the Excise Tax from basic necessities: food, medicine and medical care,” the platform says….
In his inaugural address, Democrat Green was clear and direct.
“The tax on food and medicine is very regressive, it hurts the poor the most. If we are going to be progressive, we should suspend that tax, this is the time to do it,” he said.
Former GOP Hawaii Congresswoman Patricia Saiki and former GOP leader and Democratic candidate for governor, D.G. “Andy” Anderson, emailed me to shout their praise of Green’s position.
“Took a while to convince these Democrats to accept, but new batch of D’s understands impact on the masses a bit better,” wrote Anderson, with Saiki adding, “I couldn’t believe that the new Governor Green — or any Democrat would finally see what you and Republican leaders have been proposing for YEARS.”….
read … GOP leaders laud gov on food, drug tax idea
Carpenters Union Blocking Affordable Factory-built housing
HTH: … More than two years after the County Council passed building code revisions increasing bureaucratic hurdles for locally constructed factory-built housing, a project that would have mass-produced such housing has stalled, as the county Building Division works to streamline a process that regulates the new requirements.
(Translation: They really don’t want affordable housing.)
The new restrictions requiring HPM Building Supply, currently the island’s only producer of such housing, to obtain building permits both in the factory and later on the ground, squeaked through the council on a 5-4 vote after robust lobbying from carpenters’ unions and some council members’ concerns about
safety (union control of jobs) ….
But plans by HPM Building Supply to make greater use of the structures, using non-union workers in an assembly-line operation at the company’s Keaau plant to help increase the island’s affordable housing inventory, raised concerns and inspired the new restrictions….
RELATED: Naming Names: Carpenters Union Wins Council Seats in Four Counties
read … Factory-built housing not quite a reality: Affordable housing options still working through the process
OHA Will Not Be Developing Kakaako Makai Anytime Soon
SA: … Senate Bill 1334 in 2021 lifted the residential restriction and increased the height limit for lots E and I. The state Senate supported it — only to see the bill die in the House, where it did not receive a single hearing.
(CLUE: Speaker Saiki represents Kakaako HD25. HD25 voters don't want OHA's height limit lifted. Saiki knows he would lose the next Dem Primary if he crosses them. So OHA's only hope is a different House Speaker.)
OHA has every expectation that justice will prevail in the legislature in 2023 ….
(TRANSLATION: 10 years after getting Kakaako Makai, OHA is still pushing to change height limits therefore they will not be developing anything anytime soon.)
read … Column: Allow OHA to develop Kaka‘ako Makai
BWS’ Ernie Lau leads hundreds of demonstrators calling for Red Hill’s immediate defueling
HNN: … Hundreds of concerned residents hit the streets Saturday to raise awareness about ongoing risks at the Red Hill facility — and to call for its immediate defueling.
Leading the “Walk for Wai” was Board of Water Supply Chief Engineer Ernie Lau, who has been a staunch voice in the effort to address Red Hill contamination.
The 3.5-mile trek started at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam and ended at Ke’ehi Lagoon….
SA Column: Military will default to secrecy, as Red Hill shows
SA Column: Military must take responsibility for harmful ‘forever chemicals’
read … BWS’ Ernie Lau leads hundreds of demonstrators calling for Red Hill’s immediate defueling
Soft-on-Crime Crowd Hopes to Exploit Arizona Death Penalty Case as Excuse to Release Hundreds of Criminals in Hawaii
CB: … Slain inmate Bronson Nunuha was attacked as he was curled up on his bunk in his cell in a private prison called Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona — stabbed 140 times. His attackers carved the initials of a prison gang called USO Family into his chest.
Hawaii ended capital punishment 65 years ago — two years before statehood — but Arizona prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Miti Maugaotega Jr., who along with another inmate killed Nunuha on Feb. 18, 2010.
A 12-member Arizona jury convicted Maugaotega of first-degree murder on Friday after a day of deliberations, but acquitted him of a charge of participating in a criminal syndicate. That concluded the first phase of the case in Pinal County Superior Court….
Carrie Ann Shirota, policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii, (took a break from opposing prison construction in Hawaii and) said Maugaotega’s case is a “wake-up call” for Hawaii political leaders, who should finally take steps to end the practice of sending prisoners out of state to serve their time (and instead release them onto the streets) ….
Maugaotega was sentenced to life in prison for attempted murder and other offenses when he shot a Punchbowl man in the chest after the man returned home in 2003 to find Maugaotega burglarizing the property. Maugaotega confronted the homeowner with a .45-caliber handgun and demanded money before shooting him.
Maugaotega was 17 at the time he was arrested, and later pleaded no contest to 10 other felonies related to four other cases that included a home-invasion robbery and the sexual assault of a 55-year-old woman, according to The Honolulu Advertiser….
Hawaii state Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Karl Rhoads said Friday the case is just one more reason Hawaii should not house prisoners on the mainland….
Meanwhile: Hilo kidnapping by convicted felon thwarted by quick-acting security personnel
Meanwhile: Police search turns up gun and more than 2 pounds of narcotics at home of Convicted Felon
read … Hawaii Prison Inmate Faces The Death Penalty For A 2010 Murder In An Arizona Prison
Hawaii County’s ‘Sensitive Locations’ Bill To Limit Concealed Carry Areas Now In Effect
CB: … After Hawaii County’s “sensitive locations” bill became law Friday, limiting the places where concealed weapons can be carried, Pastor Dion Maeda of the Connect Point Church in Hilo said his parishioners will still be allowed to carry weapons when they worship.
“We shouldn’t take away the rights of people in church to protect and defend themselves,” he said….
Maeda said the 500-member congregation already has a safety and security team in place and if one of the congregation has a concealed carry permit and wants to bring a gun to church, they will need to inform the security team….
Russell Ruderman, president of Island Naturals Market and Deli, would like to maximize the number of places where private carry is prohibited and is now drafting signs to bar guns at his three stores, which will be posted as soon as the bill becomes law….
read … Hawaii County’s ‘Sensitive Locations’ Bill To Limit Concealed Carry Areas Now In Effect
Keeping the Homeless Homeless: Loosened Law Allows Lunatics to be ‘Treated’ on Street
CB: … The 59-year-old has been homeless for at least a decade, and the story she tells about herself changes frequently. On this Thursday afternoon, she says she grew up across the street from Hell’s Kitchen, a neighborhood in New York, and graduated from Kaimuki High School.
But she very clearly recalls the name of the medication Koyanagi gives her: Invega Sustenna, an injection used to treat schizophrenia.
(But they won’t force this person into housing.)
Koyanagi, David Warman, an IHS program coordinator, and his assistant, Shona Cobb, have been providing outpatient medical treatment for a little over a year, as part of IHS’ Outreach Navigation Program, which has seen increasing success after recent changes to state laws.
There are three pathways for people to get medication through the program. Some accept treatment without involvement of a court. Over two years, seven people were helped through this method, but that increased to 23 in the last 14 months….
(And none of these people has been forced into housing.)
The second route, guardianship, usually involves a family member or a public guardian if the person has no relatives or friends able to step in.
The last resort, Assisted Community Treatment, is for those whose mental illness or substance use disorders impair cognitive function, leading them to refuse treatment, which results in IHS stepping in to advocate in court for doctor-prescribed treatment management….
In the last 14 months, IHS has been better able to reach people as the result of a change in Hawaii’s Assisted Community Treatment law in 2019, which lets a judge order an individual to receive outpatient mental health treatment.
(Annnnd…this is the improved version.)
Previously, people who were facing ACT petitions were provided a public defender if they refused treatment. The change in state law replaced public defenders with court-appointed guardians ad litem last year. Unlike a public defender, a GAL is not legally obligated to advocate for what their clients want. Instead, they determine and advocate for what’s in the client’s best interest….
Civil rights concerns about the ACT law have been expressed in the past, including written testimony by the Hawaii Department of Health, the Attorney General’s Office, and Louis Erteschik, executive director of the Hawaii Disability Rights Center, who said he previously testified against the removal of public defenders in ACT cases but whose position has since “evolved.”
Erteschik, an attorney since 1974, said he was very much against the idea of involuntary medication, along the lines of what’s being done in a new program in New York.
“What you don’t want, obviously, is some totalitarian society where some shrink is running around telling you you need a little shot of this or that,” Erteschik said. “So that’s the nightmare scenario that we want to avoid, and I used to assume that’s all that ACT was.”
Since his testimony on a bill amending state law in 2021, Erteschik said he has encountered many homeless people during his commute to work on the bus, and seeing the symptoms of their mental states was a revelation. He has come to appreciate the type of work IHS is doing….
(Annnnd … policy apparently hinges on people who are only just now figuring out that the homeless are lunatics.)
IHS received $500,000 in county funding for its Outreach Navigation Program, but after June it would need more money to continue.
(DO THE MATH: $500K / 25 patients = $20K per patient and they aren’t even housed.)
read … Nonprofit Finds Success In Treating Mentally Ill Homeless People After Hawaii Loosened Law