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Tuesday, May 09, 2017
May 9, 2017 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 8:42 PM :: 3035 Views

Inouye Institute Event to Feature Trump’s Transportation Secretary

Will the regulatory state strangle waterborne shipping in the U.S.?

Criminal Probe of OHA’s $435K Beamer Contract

HNN: …A criminal probe is now underway on a lucrative, non-bid contract issued by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.…

the state Attorney General's office has subpoenaed records relating to an OHA's contract with Hawaiian scholar Kamana Beamer.

Sources said the subpoena was issued to the state Procurement Office, which recently found that OHA improperly awarded the contract without competitive bidding.

One OHA dissident trustee said contracting violations are rampant at the state agency.

"Some people got contracts favorably. Staff was complaining that rules were not being followed and they were asked to in a sense cover things up," said Trustee Rowena Akana.

She said a criminal probe is needed.

"I think that's perhaps what we need. Because warnings have not worked."

Beamer's contract award was for $435,000….

The contract was for documenting the sale of crown lands between 1893 and 1959. The study calls for measuring the acreage sold and the development of a database listing the sale of the properties.

According Akana, the state agency already paid for similar studies by other contractors.

"OHA has done so many of those already. And we gave the (University of Hawaiian's) Hawaiian studies program $1 million to also do an inventory of Hawaiian lands," she said.

Akana said she's asked OHA staffers for copies of Beamer's research to see how much work was actually done.

Related: OHA Procurement Violations: Crabbe, Klein, Lindsey and the $435K Beamer

read … OHA contract target of criminal probe

Will Oahu General Plan Legalize Some TVRs?

KITV: …"Until we can do a better job of enforcement in the long term, the city and state are going to be losing revenue that can be collected, and we are going to continue to have problems are negatively impacting the character and quality of neighborhoods on our island,” said City Council Chairman Ron Menor.

Menor wants any fines the city collects to go toward enforcement. 

He plans to amend a proposal that allows neighbors to sue before going through the city’s administrative process for relief.

His proposed changes would exempt rentals in resort areas and will be taken up later this month.

Menor believes after rail, vacation rentals are the biggest problem the city faces, and he's not the only one.

"We will have a situation that is way worse, than it is now. They are a constant stream of strangers in our neighborhoods," said Kailua Resident Larry Bartley.

Bartley's watchdog group, Save Oahu's Neighborhoods, is waging a new battlefront, the Oahu General plan.

It is a blueprint for growth for the islands. He fears language in the draft plan, is a Trojan horse.

So, you think the language sets the stage to legitimize the illegal vacation rentals, we asked?

Definitely, definitely. Ultimately, that would be it," said Bartley.

The plan calls for permitting small scale visitor accommodations in non- resort areas as warranted by market demand, community input, and the ability to enforce effectively.

The city said it was meant to deal with small hotels like the Marriott in Laie, and the Hampton Inn in Kapolei.

But the neighborhood boards don't buy it, and are encouraging those who oppose the expansion of short term rentals near their homes to submit testimony against it.

The deadline is midnight Monday.

read … Vacation rental opponents take aim at Oahu General Plan

SB559: How Climate Change Can be Used to Justify More Tax Credits for Billionaires

WHT: …Expanding strategies to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions by using more renewable energy and controlling air pollution.

Developing and conserving greenhouse gas “sinks” by prioritizing park and greenway development and restoration of native forests.

Establishing an interagency climate change mitigation and adaptation commission, to include both state and county members….

read … Taxes are for Little People

Billionaire Movie Moguls Cry About $35M Cap on Hawaii Film Tax Credits

PBN: Hawaii’s film tax credit … has been extended for seven more years past its current 2019 sunset date under a bill passed by lawmakers last week.

…if the bill becomes law they would be faced with a new $35 million rolling tax credit cap, which could deter production companies that are looking to film in the state….  (Waaa!)

The Legislature passed House Bill 423 last week, which extends Hawaii’s film tax credit to Jan. 1, 2026, from the current sunset date on Jan. 1, 2019, but also adds a new rolling tax credit cap of $35 million a year. The bill now awaits action by Gov. David Ige, who may sign it, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature….

While Skinner told Pacific Business News the extension is important for TV studios eyeing Hawaii for future productions, the seven-year extension is just shy of the time needed for studios to consider investment in infrastructure development in the state….  (Uh-huh)

Skinner said a 15-year window would be an ideal timeline for attracting private-sector interest in building a studio complex in Hawaii, something she says would allow major productions to film entirely in the state. (Sure.  Notice how it always involves giving them more money?)

read … Hawaii film tax credit gets extension but new $35M cap could deter production

Hits and misses as state tries to crack down on Medicaid fraud

KHON: They care for hundreds of thousands of patients across Hawaii, but some doctors who are paid by Medicaid, the state’s safety-net insurance, misuse it as a prescription for profit.

Even when they’re caught in suspected fraud, waste, and abuse, many medical providers get to stay in practice and keep right on collecting, and when there are crackdowns, some say they feel unfairly targeted, while the state’s says their own hurdles are extremely high to take cases all the way.

Medicaid is one of the state’s largest expenses, a $2 billion-plus program distributing mostly federal tax dollars to insure care for 356,000 of Hawaii’s low- and moderate-income families and nearly half of Hawaii’s children.

DHS is making inroads against payments providers shouldn’t have gotten, nearly tripling the dollar amount recovered in its dozens of annual investigations. Out of 29 cases investigated in 2014, DHS got back $687,000; 39 cases in 2015 recovered $1.56 million; and 24 cases last year netted $1.91 million in returned overpayments.

The state’s contracted health plans check claims in their own fraud-watch departments.

“They say there are billing irregularities, there are anomalies regarding the usage of certain authorization codes, that they are using codes for services that were not provided,” Bhanot said.

Yet even when busted, these medical providers usually keep right on seeing patients, even collecting Medicaid money.

Always Investigating asked, why still do business with those who have been caught with these intentional cases?

“Very good question, because what happens is when they are found to be in violation,” Bhanot said, “they can go on the exclusion list.”

That’s a list maintained by the federal U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General, which cuts providers off from Medicaid, but despite dozens of investigations a year, only a small handful of those end up on the exclusion list.

read … Hits and misses as state tries to crack down on Medicaid fraud

EBT Funded Homeless Drug Addicts Desecrate Heiau—One Death Tied to Camp

KITV: …"They're just partying away in there. They're collecting EBT and they got a good life right now. I see them come out of the valley and come to the stores and pay with their EBT and then hitch right back to Kalalau with their food. They're having a good ol-time," said Kilauea resident Kyra Maka.

The group publishing photos and videos on Facebook calls themselves the 'Kalalau Outlaws.'  Much of the footage depicts bizarre behavior.

Residents claim squatters illegally farm marijuana among other things and come out and trade it for supplies. Many on Kaua'i are skeptical about the group's intentions.

"Anyone could be using it to hide from warrants or the law or responsibilities. You just don't know who could be hiding out in Kalalau," said resident Kristi Sasachika.

Just last week, Police arrested 46-year-old Cody Safadago in connection with a fatal hit and run. He's accused of driving a stolen truck that killed 19-year-old Kayla Huddy-Lemn. Police said Safadago had no known home address but was known to stay in Kalalau Valley.

Illegal camping is an ongoing problem the Department of Land and Natural Resources said it's trying to control. Since January, repeated sweeps in the area have resulted in more than a hundred citations.

But right now, there isn't a full time park ranger on site, so sweeps aren't consistent….

Related: Homeless Criminal from Mainland Moves to Hawaii, Allegedly Kills Kauai Girl After Stealing Truck

read … Residents claim squatters grow pot, desecrate heiau in Kalalau Valley

300-400 Homeless Fly In from Mainland Each Year

HNN: Two months ago, Donte Toombs used his government benefits to buy a one-way ticket from Minnesota to Hawaii.

The 28-year-old, who said he suffers from mental illness, was recently spotted walking down Kapiolani Boulevard with a backpack and a couple of blankets.

"I came out here, did some studying (about the benefits that are available) out here. It was a good place to live so I came out here for that reason," he said. (Translation: Thanks for the EBT card, suckers!)

Experts say Toombs' story is common. About a third of Oahu's new homeless arrivals suffer from mental health issues.

But while service providers are still seeing fresh faces daily, the overall number of people showing up on Oahu and quickly ending up homeless is going down.

In 2012, about 470 people arrived on Oahu from the mainland and were homeless within a year. That figure was down to 309 in 2015…..

"Also, our new laws do not accommodate newcomers to be homeless on sidewalks or beaches or parks," he said. "We've also increased the shelter fee ... so it's about $400 a month to stay at the shelter if you are a recent arrival."

Carvalho said the perception that there are a lot of newcomers on the streets might be due to chronic homeless changing neighborhoods.

"We're not only seeing new faces. But now we're experiencing new types of challenges with different homeless sub-populations," he said.

He added that many are addicted to drugs or suffer from mental illness. Both are factors that cause people to move instead of going to a shelter.

Back on Kapiolani Boulevard, Toombs isn't sure what his next step will be.

IHS officials said he spent two weeks at their men's shelter before checking himself out. 

SA: Churches help homeless with laundry, other needs

read … Advocates: New fees, laws stemming tide of homeless from mainland

Big Island Drug Court graduates largest class

WHT: The 3rd Circuit Courtroom off Halekii Street was packed, Monday morning, with people as family and friends came to celebrate 11 people and their success in completing drug court.

The 39th commencement ceremony for Big Island Drug Court was the largest graduating class since the court’s inception in 2002.

Drug Court Judge Melvin Fujino addressed the graduates saying in many ways, the process to a clean and sober life is an uphill battle.

“The way forward has been anything but clear,” Fujino said.

However, Fujino commended each of the men and women in the program for working hard.

Hailama Anakalea, 33, of Kealakehe, was one of Monday’s graduates. He entered the program in September 2015. He faced charges of second-degree theft.

He’d been using methamphetamine for nine years. He had spent time in and out of jail and was ready to just go to prison. Then he heard about drug court….

HJ: Big Island Drug Court Celebrates “National Drug Court Month”

read … Drug Court

City, contractor to pay $700K for clean water violations

HNN: …In August 2013, the the state Health Department issued a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit to the city. The permit gave contractor SMJV the OK to discharge treated wastewater from the Kanehohe-Kailua deep tunnel construction project into state waters.

Pumping of the wastewater into the Nuupia pond and Kawa Stream on Oahu's east side began in 2014.

But in March 2015, allegations surfaced against the project, claiming the city and SMJV exceeded the permitted limits water of discharged water….

read … Violations

10-cent fee Proves Bag Ban is Just a Tax Hike

SA: The Honolulu City Council will be voting on Bill 59, CD2, on Wednesday in the final hearing of this measure.

This bill would require businesses to charge a fee of 10 cents or more on all plastic and paper bags with the exception of bags for prepared food and drinks. But it does nothing at all to move Honolulu County toward a real ban on plastic checkout bags. It doesn’t even take an incremental step, such as banning compostable plastic bags.

Instead it allows all the loopholes in the law to remain including thick plastic bags, plastic bags for take-out and compostable plastic bags.

The Council is side-stepping fixing up the failed plastic bag ban by substituting a fee instead…..

read … 10-cent fee will increase plastic bag problem

Maui, Kauai Councils mull ban on 'plate lunch' containers 

HNN: During a Maui County Council hearing on Monday, dozens of (obsessive-compulsive) people weighed in on proposed styrofoam restrictions that would eliminate both the sale and use of the popular plate lunch containers.

Almost all of the testimony was in favor of the restrictions….

some businesses say switching to biodegradable or compostable products would be expensive and ineffective. Marilyn Jorgensen, co-owner of CJ's Deli & Diner, told the council that since compostable products don't automatically break down, the trash problem won't be solved.

"Passing the styrofoam ban is not sustainable. All the economic burden is being placed on the food service industry," she said.

Opponents urged the county to focus on improving litter management.

"A ban that singles out food-grade EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) food containers does little to reduce litter or ocean debris harmful to marine life and environment," said Joy Gold, a consultant for distributor KYD, Inc.

Under the current draft of the bill, the ban would also cover prepared foods in polystyrene containers packaged outside of the county.

"Sometimes change isn't easy, but we adapt simply because it's the right thing to do for our environment and for future generations to come. Recycling and litter control awareness is just simply not enough," said Maui resident (professional protester) Tiare Lawrence….

KGI: Kauai Council gears up for measure focusing on polystyrene use

read … Maui Council mulls ban on 'plate lunch' containers across Maui County

Local businesses know full well the ‘price of paradise’

MN: Cost of shipping, labor are just two of the major barriers to doing business on an island….

(IQ Test: Do you see the false sense of inevitability conveyed by the headline and the text?)

read … Local businesses know full well the ‘price of paradise’

Mike Hansen talks Jones Act on Hawaii Public Radio (HPR)

HSC: …We sat down with former Hawaii ship agency owner and now part-time commercial ship broker and consultant, Mike Hansen, to catch up on some history about the Jones Act….

read … Jones Act

Hawaii Democrats squabble without Republicans

SA: What happens when you throw out most of the Republicans in the Legislature? We have none in the Senate and only five in the House. The remaining members, all Democrats, start arguing with themselves over petty differences. The taxpayers lose again….

There may be hope for Republicans. A commentary from an enthusiastic member about rejuvenating the party’s representation in the state Legislature and even our Washington, D.C., representatives offers hope (“With a passion to rebuild, Hawaii’s GOP can be a force again,” Star-Advertiser, Island Voices, May 4). In fact, this may be our only hope.

read … Democrats squabble without Republicans

Shirlene Ostrov Wants To Be GOP Chair

CB: …Ostrov believes her business background will be useful to a political party has been hampered financially for years. She is president and CEO of a logistics consulting company, Ares Mobility Solutions.

“Finances underpin everything the party does, and we are struggling,” she said.

Ostrov dismisses criticism from some quarters that Republicans are not open to diversity.

“Because I am a Filipino woman, I would not join a team that is sexist and racist,” she said. “I believe our party is fair, and I think there is room for women and minorities.”

If elected chair, Ostrov said she would bring on a new finance chair, Mark Blackburn, an entrepreneur who owns an arts and film small business, Rapa Corporation….

Ostrov spent 23 years in the Air Force and served in Afghanistan and Sudan. She received the Bronze Star and retired at the rank of colonel.

Like Tupola, Ostrov wants to get more Republicans elected to the Legislature, where Democrats outnumber them 71-5. She calls it a “tragedy” that Hawaii has no Republican in its four-member congressional delegation.

“With the GOP firmly in control of the House and Senate and White House, we need to have access to who is in charge of the national government,” she said. “But we also need to have a vibrant, two-party system in Hawaii. We need checks and balances.”

Ostrov has the support of Pat Saiki, a past party chairwoman, former congresswoman and legislator. Saiki is running for party vice chair for coordinated campaigns.

Others running for party positions with Ostrov are Lorraine Shin (vice chair for candidate recruitment and training), Jonathan Kunimura (vice chair for communications), Mele Songsong (vice chair for community service), Cheryl Sora (vice chair for coalitions), Jennifer Anderson (secretary) and Gwen Honjo (treasurer).

read … Shirlene Ostrov Wants To Be GOP Chair

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