Trustee: OHA Drains $20M from Trust Since December
The Turtle Bay Bill, Part 2
Rail Tax Hike 'Orchestrated False Crisis, Flim-Flam, Theatrics'
Shapiro: Gov. David Ige had the right instinct when he doubted an extension of Oahu's rail excise tax was needed this year, and hopefully he'll hold firm as the Legislature waffles.
Mayor Kirk Caldwell and Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation orchestrated a false crisis to stampede the Legislature into giving them more money and don't deserve to be rewarded for the theatrics.
The $900 million deficit that raises rail costs to $6 billion was a long time coming, but the city didn't disclose it to the public or legislators until shortly before the session.
HART directors held a closed meeting to plot how to manipulate lawmakers.
The tax increase was scorned at legislative hearings and community meetings by a public fed up with the flimflam surrounding rail.
The muscle for more taxes comes from labor unions and monied interests that will profit from developing lands from Kapolei to Ala Moana.
At hearings, legislators were strongly skeptical of city claims that rail construction would stop if the tax extension wasn't granted, but both houses nevertheless advanced bills supporting more taxes.
Proposals to limit the years of extension, or to conduct after-the-fact audits, are just further flimflam; more money without more real accountability is a blank check.
The city will find a way to keep construction going if lawmakers take the time to scrutinize HART's representations and plot the best path forward before sinking more money into a rail project built on bad judgment, bad management and bad faith.
Caldwell and rail leaders show little intent to change their slippery ways as they refuse to provide a true assessment of how much they expect rail to cost in the end, continue the loose accounting and resist full transparency....
read ... Tax Hike FlimFlam
Star-Adv: Kenoi clearly has violated public trust
SA: Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi's assertion that he thought it was OK to spend taxpayers' money on personal expenses such as a $1,200 surfboard and an $892 bill at a Honolulu hostess bar as long as he paid back the money does not withstand simple scrutiny.
Government prosecutors will decide whether Kenoi's misdeeds rise to criminality, but it is already clear that the mayor has grossly violated the public trust and called into question his fitness to serve. Kenoi has needlessly and heedlessly squandered the confidence voters invested in him to serve with integrity.
The mayor repaid the county during that time period for personal items such as a $700 bill at a Hilo karaoke bar and $566 in dues for the state bar association, the newspaper reported.
County officials said that personal spending was unauthorized and that Kenoi had been warned in the past.
Moreover, Kenoi paid back another $7,500 worth of charges and interest only last week, after his misuse of the pCard was exposed.
The county had rebuffed for years attempts to obtain Kenoi's monthly pCard statements, documents now made public.
Given all these facts, the mayor's assertion that he did not know what he was doing was wrong is utterly implausible....
There are about 237 Hawaii County employees authorized to use pCards, among the several thousand county and state workers who are authorized users statewide. Accounting and oversight must be stringent and other misuse rooted out and halted.
State Attorney General Douglas Chin said that determining culpability in credit-card fraud cases often centers on the cardholder's intent. Kenoi, a lawyer, insists that he did not intend to defraud the taxpayers. Only a vigorous and thorough investigation will determine the truth of that claim.
Chin has the public interest in mind in stepping up to ensure that this serious matter gets the attention it deserves.
The silence of so many members of the Hawaii County Council in the wake of Kenoi's misconduct was discouraging; only Councilwoman Margaret Wille spoke up quickly to insist that the mayor is not above the law and should be held accountable.
Big Q: Should Billy Kenoi Step Down from Office -- YES 77%
read ... About the loser they thought they were going to make Governor
Kenoi's excuses cannot overcome the plain facts
Borreca: Here is what Mayor Billy Kenoi signed when he was given a Hawaii County purchasing card (pCard): "I understand that the use of the pCard to make personal purchases is prohibited, unless specifically authorized. I will not use the pCard under any circumstances for unauthorized personal use."
Those are the rules. Now here is what Mayor Kenoi did with his card between 2009 and 2015.
He spent $1,219.69 for a surfboard at a Honolulu store, $1,909.47 for equipment at a Big Island bike shop, and $566 for his 2013 state bar association membership dues.
These new numbers are coming out since West Hawaii Today last week broke the story that Kenoi had put a $900 hostess bar tab on his pCard....
Records released by his office later show that besides the Club Evergreen charges, there was also $400 spent at the Camelot Restaurant and Lounge, a hostess bar on Sheridan Street. Also Kenoi charged $620 at Aloha Lounge, a bar in Kaimuki and $479 at the Hilton Lobby Bar in Baltimore....
There is nothing in the rules that says, "Just spend 'um and give it back when you can."....
Big Q: Should Billy Kenoi Step Down from Office -- YES 77%
read ... About the loser they thought they were going to make Governor, LOL!
Deputy prosecutor, former lawmaker, and Drug Rave Producer Jon Riki Karimatsu arrested for DUI ... again
KHON: A former member of the Hawaii State House of Representatives, now Honolulu Deputy Prosecuting Attorney was arrested for driving under the influence again.
Jon Riki Karamatsu was arrested just after 1:30 a.m. Saturday on Ala Moana Boulevard and Hobron Lane. Sources say it was at a DUI checkpoint. Karamatsu was also arrested for refusing to take a breathalyzer test or blood alcohol test.
It’s not clear what Karamatsu was under the influence of, but we do know that he was arrested and convicted of drunk driving in the past. In October 2007, Karamatsu was driving on Moanalua Freeway when he slammed into a concrete median. He was serving as a state representative for the 41st District at the time....
Karamatsu’s boss, Honolulu City Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro. He said, “I’m always disappointed when there’s anything negative involving our employees.” He also said Karamatsu did call him to let him know of the arrest, but Kaneshiro also tells KHON2, until he gets all the facts, he cannot make a decision on Karamatsu’s status with the office.
read ... Second Chance Disrespected
Vote by Mail Won't Boost Turnout, Will Disenfranchise Elderly
SA: Oregon is the pioneer state all-mail elections, with Washington state and Colorado following its lead.
Hawaii would be the next in line if one of the bills the Legislature is weighing passes this session, and both measures seem to have momentum. Senate Ways and Means passed House Bill 124, Senate Draft 1, on Thursday. On the same day, the House Finance Committee heard a similar measure, Senate Bill 287, Senate Draft 2, House Draft 1, with decision-making set for Tuesday....
But even the politics watchers who favor this move will concede: It's not a magic bullet.
Colin Moore, political science assistant professor at the University of Hawaii, has heard all the aspirations that vote-by-mail processes will boost voter participation.
"The truth is, it won't," he said. "The studies show that the effects are modest to nothing.
"The same people who mail in a ballot would have turned up and voted," Moore said. It's more of a deeply ingrained social habit: "People vote because they'd be embarrassed to tell their auntie they didn't vote," he added....
he said, there are risks for all-mail balloting, too. People who vote at the precincts can always ask someone if they don't understand the voting options; alone at home, they might make a mistake and unwittingly send in a ballot that's destined to be rejected as spoiled.
For his part, Green admitted that voting behavior is complex and the ease of ballot submission is only one element motivating — or impeding —the electors.
"It's who and what's on the ballot that drives turnout," he said....
"People vote because they feel it's a social obligation," Moore said....
Reality: Vote by Mail Fraud: Romy Cachola Barged In, Wanted Ballots
read ... Romy Cachola Plan
Media access bill gets new life
HTH: A bill, deferred twice by the chair of a House committee, has been resurrected via a little political baseball.
It wasn’t exactly “gut-and-replace,” as nothing was actually taken out. Rather, Sen. Lorraine Inouye, D-Hilo, described it as a “Christmas tree.”
Last week, at Inouye’s request, the state Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs (PSM) amended a House bill aimed at mitigating hazardous situations by inserting word-for-word language from a separate measure which sought to ease restrictions on news media covering events, such as the June 27 lava flow. And it did it to a bill sponsored by none other than the very House representative who refused to give the media access measure a hearing....
When introduced by Rep. Gregg Takayama, D-Pearl City, House Bill 1344 sought solely to appropriate funds for two additional positions in the Department of Defense....
Takayama called the amendment as a “bit of a stretch,” and said he continues to oppose it.
The language was taken directly from HB 592 and its companion SB 533, both of which Takayama effectively killed as chair of the Committee on Public Safety. Ironically, it has now ended up in a bill of his own.
Inouye, who co-sponsored SB 533, said she believes in the measure as the public has the right to know what happens in communities across the state.
“This issue affects all kinds of disasters, not only lava inundation,” she said.
Before being deferred, the measure drew opposition from Civil Defense and police officials who said restrictions were put in place to maintain public safety. In its current form, HB 1344 would amend Act 111, which went into effect only days before the flow emerged from Pu‘u ‘O‘o, to allow news media, under the supervision of emergency management agency personnel, to cover the mitigation of hazardous situations and access areas that are closed to the general public.
Act 111 granted additional powers to the counties during emergencies and has been used since the June 27 flow began threatening Pahoa to keep news media from accessing restricted areas, making it difficult for journalists to interview those most impacted by the disaster.
read ... New Life
$90M to Buy 'Prestige' Office Building Slipped into HB1366
SA: State employees aren't typically known for working in a "prestigious corporate environment." Hawaii lawmakers, however, are poised to consider buying just that -- a first-class office tower for state use.
The price could be close to $90 million. And that doesn't include the land under the building.
The Senate Ways and Means Committee is scheduled Monday to discuss a proposed draft of a bill that would instruct the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to engage in buying Alii Place, a 25-story building Ewa of the state Capitol on the edge of downtown Honolulu.
Alii Place is promoted as a "prestigious corporate environment" and features a marble-clad lobby, water fountain and a pinkish exterior framing reflective blue-green glass windows.
Mike Hamasu, research and consulting director for commercial real estate firm Colliers International, questioned the sensibility of such a deal that would make the state a landlord to many commercial tenants in the building.
"It sounds like something out of left field,"he said.
Hamasu said a key question is how long it would take for the state to benefit economically by using space in the building for state workers instead of paying rent elsewhere, though income and expenses from operating the building is another major factor.
To be sure, owning is usually less expensive than renting when it comes to real estate over the long term. There's also nothing unusual about the state acquiring buildings for its growing legion of workers. But introducing such an initiative relatively late in the legislative session is generally frowned upon by government transparency advocates.
The proposed draft of House Bill 1366 is scheduled to be heard by the committee at 1:30 p.m.
It's unclear who wrote the proposed draft. Sen. Jill Tokuda, Ways and Means chairwoman, could not be reached for comment Friday.
Earlier versions of the bill did not involve Alii Place.
The original version called for appropriating an unspecified amount of money to explore buying or building office space to ease a "pressing need"of state agencies, which are outgrowing existing space.
read ... Prestige
Vampire: Rail Construction Causes 36% Shortage in Hawaii Blood Supply
WHT: Sturdy is challenging not just himself but firefighters and others to donate. In some ways, his effort to raise awareness couldn’t have better timing.
That’s because the Blood Bank of Hawaii is preparing to close down one of its two donations centers on Oahu. The Dillingham Donator Center accounts for 36 percent of the state’s blood supply, but it will close in the next few months because of Honolulu Rail Transit construction. Increasingly, the bank will be reaching out to the neighbor islands to help fill the gap, said Maura Dolormente, director of marketing for the blood bank.
“The Big Island contributes 8.4 percent to the state’s blood supply,” Dolormente said.
read ... Vampire Rail
No free travel for teachers, panel says
SA: Teachers who organize educational trips for students should not travel free as chaperones, courtesy of the tour company, according to new advice from state Ethics Commission attorneys.
The directive flies in the face of longstanding practice in Hawaii's public schools and quickly ran into resistance. It was the second time in less than a month that the ethics staff has issued advice to teachers that was immediately challenged.
Schools spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz said Thursday the Department of Education is taking no action on the ethics guidance regarding free trips until it talks to the commission.
PDF: Letter to Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi , Letter to Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi
read ... No Free Travel