Budget: Who Will Gut the Taxpayers? —Unions, Rail, HIDOT?
American Samoa Rep Joins Trump Transition Team
Stars Align for the Congressional Review Act
75 Candidates Register for Honolulu Neighborhood Board Elections
Auditor: OHA Fails to File Oversight Reports as it Drains Public Land Trust Fund
FULL TEXT: After Lying for Weeks, City Finalizes Ko Olina Sewage Spill Report
Most Caring Cities in America—Honolulu Ranks 5th
Kealoha Out: Gets FBI Target Letter—Placed on Paid Leave
CB: …Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha has been placed on paid leave after being named as a target of a federal grand jury investigation that involves allegations of corruption and abuse of power.
Deputy Chief Cary Okimoto will take over as acting chief, and Kealoha will have no involvement with department activities.
Honolulu Police Commission Chairman Max Sword made those announcements Tuesday, just hours after Kealoha had announced he was taking the lesser step of voluntarily placing himself on “restriction of police authority” status….
read … Honolulu Police Chief Placed On Paid Leave During Corruption Probe
State LUC choking off additional housing
SA: …the Hawaii Land Use Commission has not approved any housing projects in the past three years….
…at least seven projects, representing 4,540 housing units, have been filed to the commission, and are either still awaiting approval, or have been terminated or denied….
Since the end of 2013, a large turnover in Land Use commissioners shifted the commission strongly in favor of a no-growth position, as evidenced by the absence in project approvals. Other issues such as bureaucratic hurdles and legal battles have slowed down the process.
Some home builders who face costly delays simply give up on the dream of creating more affordable housing, opting instead to create high-end housing for the very wealthy, which often does not require rezoning.
Approval of all stalled, delayed or denied projects at the LUC in the past three years would take only 0.03 percent from the 47 percent of agricultural lands, but it would help create a more affordable place to live.
Ironically, the LUC was created in part to save agricultural lands, but this has backfired as 540,000 acres of crop and pasture land have gone fallow since the commission was created. Much of the land is still “preserved,” but no productive agricultural uses are taking place and the LUC zoning has led to higher home prices, which has made it hard for agricultural workers to find a place to live.
As agricultural workers leave the island, so do agriculture jobs, and the same is true with many other entrepreneurial ideas throughout the state….
Related: State Land Use Commission has not approved housing in the past 3 years
read … Choking Off
Ige Homeless Plan: Eliminate 762 Shelter Beds
SA: …Waipahu Lighthouse Outreach Center is the only emergency shelter on Oahu between Kalaeloa and urban Honolulu.
It can shelter 100 people, and 73 spent the night Sunday, Hummel said. In a six-month period the shelter typically houses 400 to 500 people, he said.
Last month shelter operators representing eight of Hawaii’s homeless shelters — or fewer than half of all island shelters — told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that new state Department of Human Services contracts requiring more space for clients and better ratios of toilets and showers per client would require them to eliminate a combined total of 662 beds when the new contracts begin in February.
The estimate of lost beds “didn’t include us,” Hummel said Monday. “So you can add another 75 or so” beds to those that are expected to be lost.
In an interview with the Star-Advertiser last week, Gov. David Ige said the changes to shelter contracts are necessary because “sometimes we weren’t focused on the right outcomes. We really want … to move them (homeless clients) into a permanent situation.”
The current shelter contracts, Ige said, are silent on how clients are expected to make the transition into permanent housing….
read … Homelessness Industry
HECO Controls Rate Hike Message
IM: HECO is controlling the message about its proposed rate hike. Everything in the media is based on one HECO press release. The underlying documents are not publicly available.
HECO asserted that they must file a rate case every three years and this is the first proposed rate hike in six years.
“Hawaiian Electric (NYSE:HE) today proposed the first increase of O'ahu base rates in nearly six years to help pay for operating costs, including system upgrades to increase reliability, improve customer service and integrate more renewable energy. … The company is required to submit full rate cases every three years for an updated review by the PUC of the current costs of service.”
The hidden message is that three years ago, HECO filed a rate case application, but did not ask for a rate hike. HECO had additional expenses, but the additional cost savings balanced things out.
The press release elaborated on all of the additional expenses the utility has faced over the last six years.
The underlying question is why the utility was able to find cost offsets in the first three years, but not the last three years, of the six-year cycle.
In 2014 the HECO Companies proposed being taken over by NextEra Energy. The idea put out at that time was that the utility would not need a rate increase until four years after the merger was completed, that is, no rate increase until 2020….
Hawaiian Electric became more efficient, but it cost money to do so. Over the past six years the HECO Companies sold more than 50 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity. The increase in efficiency cost the utility $25 million over the same time period, or about 1/20 of a cent per kilowatt-hour….
SA: Utility co-op sought on Big Island
read … HECO Controls Rate Hike Message
Solar Schemers Try to Steal $150M from GEMS Fund – Fail
SA: …GEMS is funded by a $1.13 monthly “Green Infrastructure Fee” on electrical bills. GEMS raised the money in 2014 and as of Dec. 9 had loaned out $1.8 million.
The proposal would have allowed investors to purchase renewable energy, such as rooftop solar systems, using GEMS money and then lease the system to a customer. The investor could use the funds to finance multiple individual leases.
On Friday the PUC suspended the request for further discussion. The PUC could reconsider the request at a later date.
In a filing earlier this month, the state Consumer Advocate objected to the authority’s request, saying that using the money for investors strayed from the intent of GEMS, as investors would receive benefits from the financing program instead of consumers.
“The ratepayer-based GEMS was not intended to be a vehicle for third-party lending,” the Consumer Advocate’s filing said. “(The) request to lend to a third-party investor represents a significant departure from previously approved programs in which the borrowers were also consumers.”
The Consumer Advocate added many solar companies already offer “zero down,” 20-year leasing options.
The Hawaii Green Infrastructure Authority said using the funds for third-party investors was part of what lawmakers envisioned when passing the law.
“We would argue that, in fact, providing GEMS financing to third party investors could bring greater benefits to consumers,” the Infrastructure Authority said in a filing Friday, adding that using GEMS money would reduce the risk to investors who would pay for the solar systems.
Members of the solar industry were supportive of the proposal as a “creative” use of funds.
“Leased systems are often a great way to make solar systems available to consumers who can’t otherwise get financing. More options for consumers are always a good thing, and it makes sense for GEMS to get creative to promote its mission,” said Colin Yost, principal at RevoluSun….
read … Robbery Attempt
Pisciotta Eyes Telescope Cash Flow
HTH: TMT International Observatory could seek another partner to finance its next-generation telescope once it knows where it’s going to be built, its executive director said Monday.
Ed Stone, while testifying in the Thirty Meter Telescope’s contested case hearing, said the six institutions funding the $1.4 billion project have so far committed to covering 75 to 80 percent of its construction cost.
Another partner, possibly two, might be sought to account for the rest depending on additional commitments from the existing partners, he said. That would be sorted out once it’s known where the telescope will be built, Stone said….
He said the National Science Foundation could potentially be a future partner. The foundation has contributed grants for the project.
That prompted Kealoha Pisciotta, a Hawaiian cultural practitioner and former telescope technician, to ask during the hearing at the Grand Naniloa Hotel in Hilo whether those contributions would require a federal review of the project.
Stone said he doesn’t think it would since the science foundation hasn’t contributed money for construction.
It’s not clear if that would be an issue if the science foundation formally joins the project.
The observatory could face another pitfall even if it was again cleared to build on Mauna Kea.
If construction resumes as planned, the observatory wouldn’t achieve “first light” until 2027 — six years before UH’s master lease for the mountain expires, Stone said.
UH plans to seek a new lease, but if that fails, he said TIO could seek a direct lease with the Land Board.
Without either, the observatory would have to start plans for demolition almost immediately after the telescope is operational….
read … Executive director says TMT funding hinges on site selection
US Senate: Schatz Still on Indian Affairs Committee—Despite Absence of Indian Tribes in Hawaii
CB: Committee assignments have been announced for the U.S. Senate in the 115th Congress that starts in January.
Sen. Mazie Hirono will return to serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee….
Brian Schatz, will join the Senate committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs….
He will also continue to serve on the Senate committees on Appropriations; Commerce, Science, and Transportation; Indian Affairs; and Ethics….
read … No Indian Tribe
Conscience: Hawaii Elector Refuses to Support ‘Unqualified’ Hillary Clinton
HNN: …Elector David Mulinix cast his vote for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders rather than Hillary Clinton, who won the presidential election in Hawaii.
Hawaii law requires electors to vote for the winner of the popular vote in the presidential election.
"We shouldn't have electors. The votes of the people should be making the decision. The Electoral College is outdated," Mulinix said. "Maybe it worked in 1789 when almost nobody could read or write. Maybe it made sense then -- but we are way past that."
The state Elections Office said Mulinix's vote will still count, and he won't face any punishment for his vote. That's because while Hawaii law dictates how electors should cast their votes, it doesn't say what will happen to them if they don't….
read … Faithless
Perceptions of Risk
KE: Upon landing in Auckland on Hawaiian Airlines, passengers were reminded of New Zealand's commitment to protecting its environment from invasive pests. They were then told to remain seated as the overhead compartments were sprayed with “an aerosol” that had been approved by the World Health Organization for use within aircraft.
The word pesticide was never uttered. No one was offered the opportunity to opt-out, or leave the plane before spraying started. No one was given a mask or protective gear. There was no disclosure of the spraying prior to boarding. Only those who were “severely allergic to aerosols” were invited to make that known to a flight attendant.
And if anyone stood up, or tried to remove an item from the overhead compartment, we were warned, the entire process would need to begin again.
As I felt a gentle mist drift down onto my arms, neck, face and hands, I thought of how the antis would totally freak out if anything like this was attempted in Hawaii, despite its own severe invasive species problem. Yet the returning residents sat quietly, making no complaint, and the spraying does not deter the more than 3 million tourists who visit the island nation each year.
How is that NZ folks can sit in an aircraft getting direct exposure to pesticide without fussing, while some Hawaii residents are absolutely convinced they're being poisoned by agricultural pesticides, even though drift from the fields has never been documented, even by the antis' own studies?
Chalk it up to perceptions of risk – and good old-fashioned fear-mongering, perpetrated for the purpose of raising money for activist groups and destroying the most valuable sector of Hawaii's agriculture.
read … Perceptions of Risk
The NCAA investigation that will never end
SA: Next month will mark three years since UH self-reported a doctoring of a document. It started a chain of events that the school is still paying for today, with five lost scholarships over three years and a postseason ban for 2017….
read … UH Manoa