Full Text: President Donald Trump Inaugural Speech
Full Text: Police Commission Reasons for Removal of Chief Kealoha
Financial Services: OHA Spire Contract Balloons 760% in Two Years
Ward to Introduce ‘Tough Love Act’ for Homelessness
Competition Matters … In Sports and Government
Republicans Urged to Run for Neighborhood Board
188 Candidates File for Honolulu Neighborhood Board Elections
Asset Forfeiture Transparency & Accountability—Hawaii Grade D+
How Does Hawaii Score on Healthcare Access?
Full Text: UH Sued over Biofuel Lab Explosion
On Life Support? HECO Wants to Give You $20
EPA Fines Matson $725K for Molasses Spill
Auditor: How Will Hawaii Regulate Midwives?
Rail: Murthy Finds $9M, Discovers HART Employees are Incompetent
KITV: …Inside HART's offices, board members heard from the man who has just begun trying to get the runway costs in check.
Krishniah Murthy has been on the job for a month and a half.
He says an independent review panel that was on hand last week shared initial concerns about the capacity of staff and may recommend changes more in line with the design and build structure as well as to manage construction schedules and claims.
"That's what I am trying to do is see where our efficiencies are lacking. Do we have the right people with the right skills, so there may be changes at the staff level," said Acting HART CEO Krishnian Murthy. (Translation: “These guys are incompetent.”)
The HART board also heard about an accounting error discovered by an outside audit.
It flagged a delay in HART filing for federal reimbursements dating to 2014--to the tune of $9 million. (PKF was HART’s Auditor in 2014.)
"We had issues with making a timely claim with the FTA. We found that mistake and now have a new (i.e. competent) grants application manger working on it, so we have been able to capture those moneys we have been eligible to collect," said Murthy….
2015: Prosecutor: HART & OHA Auditing Firm Victim of 3-year, $500K Embezzlement Scheme
read … HART Incompetence
Rail: HART CFO Quits—Caldwell Covers it up for a Month
SA: Another Oahu rail official has left the project.
Diane Arakaki resigned and departed as the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation’s chief financial officer on Dec. 15, according to the rail agency’s latest monthly status report. Arakaki was HART’s CFO for more than four years.
Attempts to reach Arakaki for comment Thursday were unsuccessful, and a HART spokesmen said he didn’t have a reason for her departure.
She’s the latest of more than a dozen prominent personnel to leave HART in the past two years — a trend that has raised concerns among the agency’s board, Honolulu’s mayor, and, most recently, outside officials conducting a peer review for rail’s federal partners….
Additionally, HART’s former deputy director of planning, Jon Nouchi, left the agency the day after Arakaki….
Last week, a team with the American Public Transportation Association visited HART’s Honolulu offices and rail construction sites to review how well the project is being managed. Their report is due out in mid-February, but among their preliminary findings the team cited a “loss of institutional knowledge due to staff turnover,” said Krishniah Murthy, HART’s interim executive director, who started work Dec. 5.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell testified before the HART board last month that he had asked his staff to compile a list of those who recently left the agency and the salaries they earned.
“Many of them that left were some of the most highly compensated people in the city,” Caldwell told the board at its Dec. 15 meeting. “It begs the question: Are they leaving because of pay, or are they leaving because of management?” ….
HART leaders, including board Vice Chairman Terrence Lee, have also expressed concern over the agency’s “revolving door.” ….
read … Coverup
Teachers union: State offer of 2 percent increase over 2 years is ‘unacceptable”
MN: The Hawaii teachers union Thursday revealed the state’s current contract offer — a total of 2 percent increase over the next two years — and expressed its displeasure.
“A 1 percent lump sum bonus for the average teacher would amount to approximately $550 per year,” said Corey Rosenlee, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, in a correspondence with members. “After taxes and rising health care costs, most teachers would see a decrease in their take-home pay.
“This is unacceptable.”
The HSTA did not disclose its salary proposal.
The union also complained that the state’s offer did not include relief from the current 41 percent share that most teachers currently pay for health insurance premiums, which are rising. The HSTA is proposing to reduce the teachers’ share to 25 percent.
The HSTA bargaining team met with state negotiators for six hours Thursday in their fourth bargaining session on Oahu. The next negotiating session is set for Feb. 23, according to the communication. The current contract expires June 30.
The HSTA also is proposing to move away from the connection of teacher evaluations to compensation for all teachers. The union proposes going back to the former terms where only step movements are connected to a positive evaluation….
The HSTA also seeks more stringent accounting for public charter schools….
A march on the state Capitol is planned for Feb. 13….
read … Negotiations
Second try for New KSBE Trustee Search
PBN: The Hawaii state Probate Court is calling on a screening committee to re-launch its search for the replacement of Kamehameha Schools board of trustee Janeen-Ann Olds (Al Hee crony), whose reappointment was rejected by a Hawaii judge in late 2015.
The Probate Court in May had selected three finalists to replace Olds on the board of trustees.
But after one candidate withdrew, the Probate Court directed a screening committee to nominate three new candidates for the term, which runs through June 30, 2022, but could be extended for another five-year term by the court.
The three finalists named in May were Kamanamaikalani Beamer, assistant professor in the Hui Aina Momona program split between the Hawaiinuiakea School of Hawaiian Knowledge and the William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawaii at Manoa; Maenette K.P. Ah Nee-Benham, dean of the Hawaiinuiakea School of Hawaiian Knowledge, University of Hawaii at Manoa; and C. Kanoelani Naone, CEO of the Institute for Native Pacific Education and Culture, or INPEACE.
Honolulu-based executive search firm Inkinen & Associates, which was tapped to help with the selection process, did not say which candidate withdrew.
read … Do Over
HMSA chief Wants Hawaii Regulators to Protect HMSA from Competition
WHT: …Stollar also addressed another proposal, the idea of letting insurance companies sell across state lines. Selling across state lines is something that Trump pitched during the second presidential debate against then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
“We have to get rid of the lines around the state artificial lines, where we stop insurance companies from coming in and competing,” Trump said at the time.
Stollar said selling insurance across states is not a problem for HMSA, but it could pose some problems. The issue would be determining how interstate sales will accommodate for different state regulations for insurance sales.
One possibility is that a company’s “home state” regulations would trump those of the state it’s selling in, which could have drastic ramifications for the insurance marketplace.
“It would be a problem because there is a scenario where people could then come into a state and start selling cut-rate insurance with limited coverage,” he said….
read … HMSA chief talks Hawaii’s health care uncertainty, opportunity
Corporate Welfare Queens Conspire to grab More High Tech Tax Credits
SA: More than 400 people are expected to attend the event, called East Meets West….
Meli James, head of new ventures at Sultan Ventures, said the conference helps Hawaii showcase the local startup community to investors that may have previously overlooked the islands as a spot for innovation (legislators)….
Some conference attendees spent the day Thursday touring the state’s five accelerators, programs that provide networking and funding opportunities for new companies. The tour stopped at Energy Excelerator, Blue Startups, ROC, GVS Accelerator and the University of Hawaii’s startup support program called XLR8UH. (Idea: Defund them all.)
There are now 145 (fake) companies in the innovation community in Hawaii, up from 18 in 2012 when the collective effort to build an innovation sector in the state was (re-)launched (after the Act 221 debacles).
Blue Startups is co-hosting the conference with the state-run HI Growth Initiative, a program created to attract private investment to innovation in Hawaii.
In December, Gov. David Ige said he plans to propose $10 million of the state budget be used for the HI Growth Initiative program. (Clue: Just say ‘no’.)
According to a survey of the state’s accelerators, startups growing in Hawaii created more than 1,000 jobs (paying themselves with your tax money) over the past four years and raised more than $250 million (in tax credits).
read … Startups, investors converge for 2-day conference
How Legislators Evade Conflict of Interest Rules
SA: Q: How are you approaching the Legislature? They don’t answer to the same ethics code as other state workers, right?
A: There are some very slight differences as to what applies to the Legislature versus what applies to every other state official.
There are a couple of conflict-of-interest provisions, for example, that don’t apply to the legislators, but they do apply to everybody else.
But the legislators are still bound by most of the rest of the ethics code. And so we at the Ethics Commission do oversee the legislators to make sure they are compliant.
Q: Can we talk about that distinction a bit? That provision doesn’t apply to them in that they can vote?
A: That’s right. It’s left up to internal House and Senate rules to determine specifically what certain conflicts are.
And in particular, there’s a lot of leeway for legislators to be able to have outside employment, and to be on boards of nonprofit organizations, without impeding their ability to vote, whereas other full-time state employees, there are stricter conflict-of interest rules. …
Q: But is there anything they have to do in terms of disclosure?
A: Yeah. Other than the conflicts rules, basically everything else applies to them….
read … Director of state Ethics Commission helps lawmakers and workers comply with the law
DoTax Hammered over bugs in $59M Computer Program
SA: …Zielinski said the first phases of the new tax system are functioning properly, and told lawmakers the computer modernization effort is “on time and on budget.”
Luke rejected that claim in a series of testy exchanges at a Finance Committee hearing Thursday, saying the system has “major problems” and didn’t operate properly when she tried to file her own excise taxes earlier this month.
She said she had a difficult time registering on the new system, that a security code that was supposed to be sent to her phone never arrived, and that she struggled to make the new system work.
“That was by far the most frustrating experience I have ever had because I can tell you … I just wanted to pay you guys, I was tempted to bring you a check today,” she told Zielinski. “That process was truly frustrating.”
Luke said she was tempted several times to call the Tax Department, but decided instead to “go through the painstaking experience to pay the taxes so I can come here and tell you how bad it is.”
“It really doesn’t matter if it’s on time and on budget if it’s not what we expected and it’s failing,” Luke said.
Luke also cited reports by another contractor, AdvanTech LLC, that was hired to independently verify that the new system works as it should, and to make suggestions for improvement.
AdvanTech noted a number of concerns, including that taxpayers were having problems registering under the new system, and said the problem mostly stems from security controls on the new system….
read … Examination wanted for $59M tax system
Report shows millions budgeted for Honolulu Police Department left unspent
KHON: According to a report just issued by the city administration, the police department had a budget last fiscal year of more than $236 million from the general fund and didn’t spend all of it, leaving $9 million lapsed.
The report shows millions more also unspent from police-related special funds and capital improvement line items.
The police commission, in charge, among other things, of hiring and firing police chiefs, spent $500,000 of its more than $600,000 budget, again leaving quite a chunk of its budget unspent.
Its last annual report on record shows spending has grown 27 percent in the past couple years. Expenses include an office rental at Alii Place and several employees….
read … Report shows millions budgeted for Honolulu Police Department left unspent
Hirono at Interior Secretary Confirmation Hearings—Not One Word about the Fake Indian Tribe
CB: …Hirono … used the few minutes she was granted in a confirmation hearing Tuesday to question Ryan Zinke, the nominee for interior secretary, about alternative energy sources and climate change. He had said he supported exploring many kinds of energy sources for future use, and Hirono pressed him on the point.
“On the fuel side, I hope that when you said ‘all of the above,’ you will be committed to providing more resources and R&D in support for alternative and renewables, aside from in addition to fossil fuels,” she said. “We need to have more than a level playing field for policies that truly reflect support for all of the above.”
His answer was laconic: “Yeah.”
“I’ve always been a strong proponent on the record for research and development for different technologies, different innovations and opportunities in the complete spectrum of energy, looking at traditional sources to make sure we are better at that, certainly horizontal drilling and fracking, and all of the above,” he continued. “When it comes out of the test tube and into the field, energy needs to be affordable, reliable and abundant.”
Hirono pressed Zinke, a former Navy Seal who is an outdoorsman from Montana, further:
“But when you look 100 years into the future, when you realize climate change is upon us, it’s a threat multiplier,” she said. “Serving in the military, you are well aware that 100 years from now we need to (have done) done more than sustain the support we have provided to the fossil fuel side.”
Meanwhile: All References to ‘Climate Change’ Deleted From White House Website at Noon Today
read … Not One Word
Star Adv to Trump: Don’t Roll Back Fake Indian Tribe
SA: >> Native Hawaiians. When our indigenous people needed to be heard, the Interior Department held public hearings across the islands and got an earful (against the tribe) — and then (ignored them and) developed rules to create a path for a government-to-government relationship, a significant step forward for Hawaiian sovereignty (OHA cronies). Efforts to roll back those rules would be unnecessary and counterproductive (to some of our System’s biggest beneficiaries) ….
read … Expect more from President Trump
Obama’s Final Gift to Hawaii—Three Gun-Toting Meth Dealers
SA: …According to the White House, the three convicts from Hawaii are:
>> Thaddeas Kulani Thomas Hall of Waipahu, who is serving 180 months in prison for a 2008 conviction of possession with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, and possession of a firearm during a drug trafficking crime. Hall’s sentence was commuted to expire on Jan. 19, 2019, conditioned upon enrollment in residential drug treatment.
>> Alfred William Kemfort of Maui, who was convicted of possession with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine; in 2006 and sentenced to 240 months in prison. His sentence was commuted to expire on Jan. 19, 2019, conditioned upon enrollment in residential drug treatment.
>> Allan Aquino Lafuente of Kapolei, who was convicted in 2009 of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, distribution of five or more grams of methamphetamine, distribution of 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, and possession of a firearm during a drug trafficking crime. Lafuente’s prison sentence was commuted to 180 months.)
For Obama, it was the last time he exercised his presidential powers in any significant way….
Bonus: Four More Muslims Freed to Rejoin Al Qaeda
read … Obama Finally Finds Somebody he Deems Worthy of Gun Rights!
OJ Simpson Innocence Project files motion to overturn conviction in Dana Ireland murder
KHON: On Christmas Eve 1991, Ireland was run over while bicycling in Puna. She was raped, beaten, and died Christmas morning.
Three men were found guilty: Albert Ian Schweitzer, Shawn Schweitzer, and Frank Pauline Jr., who died in a New Mexico prison in 2015.
In 2000, Albert Ian Schweitzer was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
Now, the group is arguing, he was wrongfully convicted because he was provided with ineffective counsel….
PDF: Click here to view the filing in its entirety.
read … Dana Ireland murder
Lawmakers Push for Mass Release of Criminals onto Streets--Call Hawaii prisons expensive homeless shelters
HNN: Prison officials told state legislators Thursday that about 15 percent of their pre-trial inmates are homeless….
The Department of Public Safety report says 86 of about 500 detainees said they were homeless.
But at a hearing of the House Finance Committee Thursday morning, lawmakers said the number was probably low because it relied on self-reporting by the prisoners.
State homeless coordinator Scott Morishige agreed the 15 percent estimate was probably too low and prison reform advocate Demont Conner estimated the number of homeless detainees was closer to 50 percent.
Finance Committee member Jarrett Keokalole said the jail has become an expensive homeless shelter. Another member pointed out that (thanks to the UPW) it is cheaper to send someone to college on the Mainland than to house an inmate at Oahu Community Correctional Center for a year….
(Meanwhile legislators will continue to whine about sending criminals to the much cheaper and safer UPW-free accommodations in Arizona. Then they will raise your taxes to provide for another round of UPW wage hikes.)
read … Lunatic Asylums
KPD Officer Charged with negligent Homicide
KGI: …Magayanes is charged with one count of negligent homicide in the second degree after allegedly hitting and killing 19-year-old Michael Kocher Jr., of Hanapepe, with his car on Jan. 3, 2015, on Kaumualii Highway. Magayanes was responding to the scene of a previous accident where Kocher had just been hit by the driver of another vehicle, according to initial police reports….
read … Charged
Homeless Desecrate Cemetery
KHON: …Malia Pomele and her family were in disbelief when they visited the cemetery a couple of days ago. A group of homeless people had set up camp over the graves of their father, uncle, and their aunt.
“No respect for the dead,” Pomele said…. There were sunken graves, stolen urns….
Now, state lawmakers have a plan to make the cemetery right once and for all. We’re told that a bill in the works at the state Legislature and has a good chance of passing….
KITV: Vandals temporarily shut off 3 radio stations
read … No Respect
Amid ongoing crisis, Maui homeless shelters face uncertain future
HNN: …all three of Maui's shelters are losing beds at a time when the homeless crisis on the island doesn't appear to be improving.
Most nights there's a waiting list to get into the men's shelter at Kahului's Family Life Center. But despite high demand, it will close Feb. 1.
A new state law cuts the number of beds allowed in the dorm.
"We calculated we can probably serve five or six men at that point. We had to determine if that was going to be feasible to hire staffing," said Maude Cumming, executive director of the Family Life Center.
The center is also going to stop taking in families. The law says the women's dorm is no longer suitable for children.
"We would only be able to serve single females," Cumming said.
In total, the shelter's capacity will dwindle from 50 to 18.
For the past month, Cumming has been working with Maui's only other service provider to find a place for the people being forced out.
"We're hoping between the two of us that we can accommodate everyone that needs a place but we're just not sure," Cumming said.
Monique Yamashita runs the islands two other shelters. She said Ka Hale A Ke Ola lost space for 12 people. Na Hale O Wainee resource center lost four spaces.
Currently, there's no room for more families at either shelter and only a handful of beds for men. …
MN: Homeless shelters lose beds with new contracts
read … Amid ongoing crisis, Maui homeless shelters face uncertain future
Homosexuals Harass Waianae Church
CB: The Ark of Safety Christian Fellowship ran an ad in this month’s Westside Stories newspaper in which it publicly extends an invitation to its 18th annual event to married couples, but specifies couples should be “a man & woman by birth.”….
“Is it discriminatory? Yes. Is it legal? Barely,” said Michael Golojuch, chair of the LGBT Caucus of the Democratic Party of Hawaii.
The Hale Koa Hotel is a military facility owned by the Department of Defense. The hotel is located on a stretch of federally owned land in Waikiki, so it’s unclear whether state law applies….
The Hawaii Civil Rights Commission, a state agency that processes formal complaints and enforces state laws prohibiting discrimination, is reviewing the event and advertisement after being contacted by Civil Beat.
It’s also unclear whether the organization holding the public event at the church or the facility providing the venue would potentially be held accountable for any discrimination….
read … Harassment
Unlike UH Manoa, KCC students aren’t protesting inauguration
KGI: Edison Erorita was opening his email Wednesday morning when he was sent a letter from the University of Hawaii system that classes will still be running today.
Confused, Erorita didn’t understand why an email saying he still had class at Kauai Community College was necessary.
“I was wondering ‘why did they send me this?’ I guess some people aren’t even going to go to school that day because of Trump’s inauguration.” ….
“I can’t speak for everybody, but I think there’s very few protests that happen here that don’t specifically relate to Kauai,” said Shaina Nacion, managing editor of KCC’s student publication. “I think people here care about what’s going on in their community, but they’re not necessarily as passionate about things going on, on the outside.” ….
Trump: UH Manoa Works Itself into a Frenzy
read … Unlike Manoa