How Christmas Came to Hawaii
10,000 Residents Flee Hawaii in Year—Population Growth Slumps
State Land Use Commission has not approved housing in the past 3 years
GE Tax Hike would Boost State Skim to 33%, pay off HIDOT—Unions Get Nothing
HNN: Opening day for the state Legislature is still weeks away, but there's already a proposal to extend the .5 percent rail tax surcharge.
The bill calls for the tax to go on indefinitely, and the new wrinkle is that the state would keep a third of the money.
"This would be a way to finish what is the most important transportation infrastructure project," said state Sen. Will Espero. "That would allow rail to be built to UH-Manoa and Kalaeloa Airport."
Espero's bill is now in draft form, and it's likely the first of several proposals that would extend the general excise tax to pay for the completion of the 20-mile rail project.
Under the plan, one-third of the tax revenues --- up to $100 million a year --- would go toward state transportation projects, such as highway expansion and new roads, which are partly paid for by gas taxes and registration fees.
"This is a key point, we would never have to raise the gas tax, the vehicle registration and the vehicle weight tax again," Espero said….
Really Obvious Question: How can a tax imposed only on Oahu residents legally pay for HIDOT projects statewide? – or pay for DOTAX functions serving the entire state?
INFO: Lawsuit Challenges State’s 10% Rail Tax Skim
read … Lawmakers to consider indefinite extension of rail tax surcharge
Anderson OK with State Skimming 33% from Rail Tax
HNN: City Councilman Ikaika Anderson, who will be Transportation Committee chair, is OK with the state taking more of the money in return for the tax being made permanent.
(This proves that no GE tax hike is needed to pay for rail.)
"The general excise tax surcharge is the best way to pay for rail and extending that further so that we can collect the money to pay for rail is the best of the bad options we have in front of us," Anderson said.
The measure comes nearly two years after lawmakers extended the rail surcharge for five years. Since then, the projected costs have skyrocketed by nearly $2 billion.
Some expect lawmakers to be more skeptical this time around.
"The House needs to do some due diligence before it takes up a request to extend the rail tax. One of the things we need to do is to meet with the (Federal Transit Administration) to determine what the FTA's position is on the rail project," said state Rep. Scott Saiki….
SA: Star-Adv—Support GE Tax Hike
read … Bill to extend rail tax surcharge would boost infrastructure spending
Unfair: GE Tax Hits Poor 10 Times Harder
CB: How does the most Democratic state in the union treat its poorest citizens? Not very fairly, if we look at how the state tax system works.
Consider the general excise tax: amidst all the lobbying for its extension to meet the ballooning cost of rail, proponents do not always point out that the hardest hit by the GET are those with lowest incomes. This is because low-income earners spend the lion’s share of their income on food and other basic necessities on which the GET is applied. Prices for these essentials are nearly 70 percent higher than the national average. As a share of family income, the GET impacts low-income workers almost 10 times harder than it hits the top 1 percent.
Hawaii recognized this in 2007 by creating a refundable food/excise tax credit. This allows tax filers who earn less than $50,000 per annum — or less than $30,000 for single filers — to claim up to $110 per qualified exemption.
This provides some relief to families especially hard hit by the GET. The less they earn, the more of a tax credit they get. It’s a mechanism for fairness that was updated in 2015 to catch up with inflation.
However that tax credit adjustment is due to expire at the end of 2017.
If legislators fail to act to remove the sunset during the upcoming session, the credit will revert to its original level, resulting in a loss of almost 25 percent of its current value.
read … Restore
Was Acting HPD Chief In On The Theft Conspiracy?
CB: On Tuesday, Okimoto took over the nation’s 20th-largest police department after his boss, Chief Louis Kealoha, voluntarily went on paid leave….
In 2013, Okimoto was the major in charge of the patrol district that oversaw the elite unit of police officers who investigated and arrested Puana. He’s also been called to testify before the federal grand jury that’s been empaneled by the U.S. Justice Department as part of its criminal investigation into the Kealohas and other members of Honolulu’s law enforcement community.
Puana’s criminal defense attorney, Alexander Silvert, said this week that Okimoto’s ties to the mailbox case should be worrisome to the Police Commission….
read … Conspiracy
Anti-Telescope Activists Fear Special Master Would Blow Their Delaying Game
HNN: …opponents of TMT aren't so sure the state Supreme Court can step in.
Opponents of the observatory filed an appeal in November with the Hawaii Supreme Court, arguing the contested case hearing is a flawed process and they're being denied due process.
The court ended up dismissing the opposition's appeal on jurisdictional grounds.
And attorney Richard Wurdeman, who has represented opponents of the project, told Hawaii News Now that because the high court declined to accept jurisdiction "it would appear that the court would not have jurisdiction to appoint a master at this point."
Kealoha Pisciotta, of Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, also opposes a master.
"No, it would not expedite the process. If a court master would be helping at all, it would have to start from the beginning, not in the middle," Pisciotta said.
But if the Supreme Court doesn't oversee the process and then throws out the permit like it did last year the parties could be back to square one again -- facing another contested case hearing without clear guidance….
read … Running the Clock Down
Rowena Akana Interview: New head of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs
SA: …Among those whose vote she won was a new trustee, Keli‘i Akina, a longstanding critic of OHA and opponent of the agency’s federal recognition push. That goal Akana still supports, citing the transfer of the Hawaiian trusts to the state in 1959.
“The mandate from the feds was to create something for the Hawaiian people, which they did,” she said.
“We’ve been trying to educate him (Akina) on why some things are the way they are. What we’re doing here is still that mandate.” ….
Q: What was your reaction when there was a bit of a walkout after you were elected to the chair? …
people don’t like to give up the certain perks that power has….
I think part of it is fear. Fear of what I might do, in terms of turning over things and perhaps reversing some things …
Q: Should the beneficiaries expect to see a lot of 5-4 vote splits?
A: Well, I hope not. We knew in the beginning we’d get resistance, we know that. But I hope that over time this will change, because my motivation is simply to do the best we can for our beneficiaries.
And that means perhaps refocusing some of the things that we’ve done in other areas. For instance, we’ve paid no attention to real health care, or health results. We’re into research about statistics, but OHA cannot put its finger on what we have done, where we could say, “We are responsible for this significant change.”
Many years ago, we did things like, when Molokai didn’t have dialysis machines, people had to fly here to Honolulu to get on a dialysis machine, very expensive. So we invested in five machines to be put in the hospital there, so our beneficiaries wouldn’t have to come over to Honolulu to get this kind of treatment.
So in my view, OHA needs to get back to some of the basic needs that people have, which we have not done in 14 years.
Q: Can you give an example of what OHA has done in recent years that you think is a diversion or distraction?
A: Well, I think one of the things that I believe hurt us was about 14 years ago when that chair decided that we would focus on advocacy. And in her view, advocacy was just giving monies to other organizations to do what we were doing.
In other words, farming out a lot of contracts to people….
Q: The news is that you think it’s top-heavy.
A: Oh, very top-heavy….
HPR: New OHA Board and New Chair’s Vision for the Future: Rowena Akana
Oct, 2016: OHA to Silence Dissident Trustees?
read … Rowena Akana
Because we don’t have Insane Asylums, RN Scrubs Mentally Ill on Street to Reduce Infections, Save State Millions
HNN: …For the past eight years, the registered nurse has split her time heading up the clinic at the Institute for Human Services men's shelter and practicing "street medicine."
Much of her work is done with soap and water -- coupled with a little of advice.
"You remember Norberto who used to sleep on the bench right next to you here? He passed away from something just like this," Glenn told a woman near Hotel Street as she treated a wound on her foot. "You really need to get it taken care of,"
But often that message falls on deaf ears.
"The mentally ill are very difficult as well as the alcoholics and hard-core drug users because they have very poor follow through," Glenn said.
And she and others believe expanding her street team to include more nurses and a doctor who could prescribe antibiotics could save the state millions of dollars in medical expenses….
read … Small medical team struggles to help homeless keep wounds in check
Green Energy Scheme—Soak Ratepayers for $200M Failure
SA: …Hu Honua never produced any long-term contracts and state permits showing they actually had the feedstock to fuel the power plant.
When Hawaii Electric Light canceled its contract with Hu Honua for failing to meet deadlines, the Consumer Advocate supported that decision. We didn’t have to, but we continued to negotiate with Hu Honua, trying to find a price that wouldn’t stick utility customers with the bill for the project’s $200 million in losses.
When we couldn’t agree, we suggested going together to the Public Utilities Commission so they could make the call.
Hu Honua’s response was to file a lawsuit and hope that griping about the utility gets them what they want.
read … Green
Mortgage Rates Double Whammy on Home Affordability
SA: …Longtime mortgage rates are at their highest levels since 2014: the 30-year fixed-rate loan rose to an average 4.3 percent over last week’s 4.16 percent, says mortgage giant Freddie Mac, and to 3.52 percent from 3.37 percent for a 15-year mortgage.
And, as we in Hawaii have long known — and is being confirmed anew with rising property tax assessments — home prices are climbing ever higher….
read … Mortgage
Ige budgets $44 million boost to the UH system over 2 years
SA: The governor is seeking to add approximately $22 million a year to the university’s operating budget — a nearly 5 percent increase. The funding includes $5 million for the cash-strapped UH Cancer Center, $3.5 million for the university’s research and innovation initiative, and a $10 million lump sum allocation for UH to prioritize….
For facilities, the governor is proposing a lump sum $150 million in state-backed bonds. The regents’ budget had requested more than $216 million for various capital improvement projects.
read … $44M
UH Grad students seek to Airbrush Sanford B Dole from History
HNN: …In the 1950s, though, Hawaii's territorial government changed the name to Dole Street to honor Sanford Dole's family.
Dole was a lawyer and Hawaii's first territorial governor. But many consider him an enemy of Hawaiian royalty and friend of the elite immigrant community.
"The name Dole perpetuates this legacy of what occurred during the illegal overthrow, the occupation of Hawaii," Keliipaakaua said.
Given that, the University of Hawaii Graduate Student Organization is trying to spur the city to restore Dole Street to its Hawaiian name.
"We're going door to door down Dole Street to talk to folks, seeing if they'll be supportive of the name change. We have to get at least over 50 percent of the residents on board," GSO president Amy McKee said.
Some will view it as an inconvenience. Residents would have to change the street name on their IDs and all personal documents….
Besides community support, the city Department of Land Utilization, the Honolulu Fire Department, Honolulu Police Department and the post office have to all agree to the name change….
The Manoa Neighborhood Board drafted a resolution for the name change. Board members will vote on it at their February meeting.
read … No History Know Nothing
Distracted by Chief--HPD reports big drop in speeding tickets this year
HNN: HPD said its officers issued 44,435 speeding citations in 2015. And with a little more than a week to go in the year, the department said officers issued 37,702 speeding tickets in 2016….
Attorney Patrick McPherson, who defends drivers in traffic court said the numbers seem to be down, but calls into his office are up.
"In the past year, I've seen an increase in the number of people at least obtaining attorneys to fight speeding tickets because the calls to our office have increased." McPherson said.
"You can't imagine how many people walk into this practice 90, 95, 100 mph who got caught on the freeway," said McPherson.
HPD said there have been 53 fatalities this year, 12 deaths are directly related to speeding. In 2015, there were 48 fatalities, nine of which were directly related to speeding.
SA: HPD Recruiting new officers
read … Drop
Civil Beat—One of Biggest Sources of anti-GMO ‘Fake News’
KE: One of the big news stories of 2016 was the proliferation of fake news — and the willingness of people to accept it.
The Guardian even had a piece on what it is and how to spot it — despite having printed fake news itself.
But though social media is often blamed, it isn't the only culprit. Mainstream media in Hawaii and elsewhere contribute to the proliferation of fake news by unquestioningly reprinting press releases and running commentaries without checking facts….
One of the biggest perpetrators of fake news is Civil Beat, which regularly spins its own stories and engages in wildly lopsided coverage, while also allowing its “community voice” contributors to tell flat-out lies.
The most recent egregious example is the assault on the recent statewide pesticides initiative piece by Ashley Lukens, who runs the Center for Food Safety. As I've previously reported, Pierre Omidyar funds both Civil Beat and CFS, and Civil Beat has run CFS press releases as news.
read … Fake