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Friday, February 23, 2018
February 23, 2018 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:02 PM :: 4170 Views

Janus vs AFSCME: What happens if Hawaii becomes a Right-to-Work State Tomorrow?

Auditor: HTA Gives Millions to Contractors Without Documentation

Hawaii Bill Banning Plastic Straws Based on Research by a 9-Year-Old

Ban the Bike! How Cities Made a Huge Mistake in Promoting Cycling

Pandering to Dem Base with Fake Issue: Hawaii Sues FCC over Net Neutrality

Hanabusa Supporters: Shall we Raise Taxes, Embarrass Ige or Both?

CB:  …The chairman of the Senate’s key money committee says lawmakers would have to find $45 million to pay for new budget proposals by Gov. David Ige.

Sen. Donavan Dela Cruz, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, has called for a public informational meeting with officials from Ige’s budget and tax departments.

At the same time, a bill to tighten regulation of online vacation rentals appears likely to generate less money than state budget analysts anticipated, which may make the potential gap harder to close…..

Dela Cruz served as the Ways and Means chairman during a special session in August to find money to fund the Honolulu rail project. This is his first full session as chair of the powerful money committee, a seat that Ige once occupied.

Sen. Jill Tokuda, who preceded Dela Cruz as Ways and Means chair, said she could not recall holding a public meeting to discuss a governor’s message. But she said it was not surprising that Dela Cruz had called the meeting.

“You would be doing it to really be able to ask, ‘Why at this point in the session, is the Legislature being asked to make significant changes to the supplemental budget,'” Tokuda said.

Ige’s spokeswoman could not immediately say whether there was money available to cover his requests.

Dela Cruz declined to comment in detail until the meeting, which is scheduled for Wednesday. Instead, he referred to Ige’s official messages addressed to Senate President Ron Kouchi and House Speaker Scott Saiki, asking for the extra money.

Those are two of the items on the meeting agenda.

The other is an item referring to a fiscal 2019 financial plan, which includes $33 million to be generated from proposed legislation to regulate and tax vacation rentals for the 2019 fiscal year. Senate Bill 2963 sailed through the Senate and has crossed over to the House…

…Dela Cruz said, the only thing certain is there is a hole to fill.  “Now we’re tasked with either cutting, or finding revenues to address the governor’s messages and the budget assumption,” he said….

SA: ‘Airbnb bill’ heads in right direction

Totally Related: Hanabusa Supporters Plan to Disrupt Legislative Session

read … Hawaii Lawmakers Are Scrambling To Find Another $45 Million

Criminal Intent: Honolulu rail pays $3.8M penalty for Corrupt Relocation Over Payments to Politically Connected Developers

SA: …The review initially identified “potential problems” when it looked into one particular relocation file, Robbins said, and then was asked by HART to look into 18 of the “most complex, high-dollar relocations” out of approximately 103 completed relocation files.

The problematic relocations spanned several years, involved both residences and businesses and were handled by a variety of relocation agents both in-house and tied to HART’s previous relocation consultant (BINGO!)….

A review conducted in 2017 by a new (Oh-oh!) relocation consultant, W.D. Schock Co. “identified potential deficiencies in 15 of … 18 files due to missing, inadequate, and/or inconsistent documentation; mathematical errors; and payments made without sufficient justification,” Robbins said in his letter to FTA….

HART said it had spent approximately $13.17 million on relocation expenses to date….   (PBN: Robbins said that a local agency is typically allowed to receive between 28 and 30 percent of that amount….)

HART further is seeking to restructure its Right-of-Way staff, noting that the new director of planning, permitting and right-of-way was hired in late December 2016….  (Uh-huh…)

Robbins’ letter does not suggest that there may have been purposeful or criminal intent on the part of HART employees or contractors and noted “the present HART executive team with responsibility for real estate acquisitions for the project and associated relocations … is not aware of any wrongdoing or improper conduct by any recipient of relocation payments.”… (KNOW THEM BY WHAT THEY DENY.)

(Notice all the information missing from this very typical Star-Adv story?  Lets fill in the gaps….)

CB: HART’s own planning, permitting and right-of-way director, Jesse Souki (suddenly) left the project in November 2016 after about a year on the job and became the Hawaii Community Development Authority’s executive director.

2014: Paragon Partners Ltd. right of way project managers for the Honolulu Rail Transit Project

2015 PBN: Honolulu rail transit’s eminent domain “The Ross Dress for Less Store in The Howard Hughes Corp.’s Ward Village. This is the future site of the Kakaako rail station and the city requires a sizable chunk of the land occupied by Ross. So, while the city works out a price with Howard Hughes for the land, it also owes Ross assistance with finding and moving to a comparable space.”

read … Honolulu rail could give up $3.8M for possible federal violations

State’s Unfunded Liabilities Like A Runaway Train

CB:…According to an actuarial valuation report released last month, the EUTF is only 12.8 percent funded. Thanks to legislative reforms and rosier projections, this was a vast improvement over two years earlier, when the ratio stood at just 6.7 percent, but the trust fund is not out of the woods yet.

Some of the improvement could be attributed to lowered health care cost predictions. The report lowered the HMSA inflation rate from 9 percent to 6.6 percent for the next two years. Last year, HMSA’s premiums for large employers increased by an average of 9.3 percent…..

read … Runaway

The High Cost of ‘Affordable Housing’ Mandates

WSJ: …As housing prices recover from the Great Recession, municipalities across America are considering laws that will raise the cost of homeownership. The Wall Street Journal reports that cities like Philadelphia, Detroit and Atlanta are requiring developers to set aside some portion of their new units to sell or rent at below-market prices to low-income households. Like many progressive promises, this is a fool’s errand. These laws will reduce the cost of housing for targeted political groups if they increase the cost of housing for everyone else.

The concept, called “inclusionary zoning,” has been implemented by 886 communities, nearly 90% of which are in California, Massachusetts and New Jersey. While the intent of these laws is to increase the supply of affordable housing, history shows they increase the cost of housing and limit the supply of new affordable units….

read … The High Cost of ‘Affordable Housing’ Mandates

SB2333: Would You Trust the State of Hawaii with Your Retirement Savings?

HNN: …Senate Bill 2333 is up for a critical vote Friday morning….

the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors in Hawaii is against the bill.

"We do not believe that a state-run plan that competes with private market plans is the answer. Availability and access to retirement savings options are not the problem," wrote executive director Cynthia Takenaka in her testimony to the state Legislature.

It favors retirement education instead.

The state Department of Budget and Finance considers the bill premature and favors a study first….

read … In a place where saving for retirement is tough, some back state-run retirement fund

New Hawaii County HR Director Claims he Will Stop Hiring Cronies

HTH: …The Sept. 7 audit report, by Legislative Auditor Bonnie Nims, found numerous problems in how the county selected applicants to be interviewed and how candidates were assessed. Employees who were concerned about the processes kept quiet because they feared retaliation, the audit said….

The auditor found cases in some departments where applicants were offered positions before interviews were conducted, where no references were checked, where the number of interviews were the same as vacancies even though there was a large referred list, where a random number generator, instead of a skills test, was used to winnow applicants, where applications with mainland addresses were discarded and other questionable practices.

West Hawaii Today, in an investigation, expanded on the audit’s findings by revealing the use of sticky notes and the acronym “POI” to designate a “person of interest,” who was selected even before positions were advertised….

the county Merit Appeals Board on Tuesday named its acting director and former deputy director Bill Brilhante as the new HR chief…..

read … New HR director vows to restore trust

UH to perform yet another review of financial management of Maunakea

HTH: …The Board of Regents on Thursday approved a resolution requesting the UH Office of Internal Audit conduct a financial management audit of “entities engaged in Maunakea stewardship and management,” according to the measure.

The audit is slated to begin by March 1. Findings will be presented to the board by Sept. 30….

The audit will review all university funds, lease payments and any external funds that are received and used in the support of stewardship, management, education and other activities related to Maunakea.

It also will review fund transfers between the university and the Research Corporation of the UH, along with payments from Maunakea observatories and other third parties to university-related support programs, according to the resolution….

“My fear is that, those who have a … belief that the university has mismanaged Maunakea … will, I think, discount any audit that is done internally,” board member Jeffrey Portnoy said….

UH President David Lassner said during the meeting that the internal audit is not about “a bill that was introduced as a punitive measure against the university,” and he doesn’t expect to find “any criminal activity or fraud.”….

“From my perspective, this is actually not about the fact that there are individuals in the community who distrust everything that the university does,” Lassner said. “This actually is about helping us understand what we’re doing and how we can do better.”…

read … UH to perform its own review of financial management of Maunakea

Security Guards Refuse to Clear out Coco Palms Grifters

KGI: …None of these guards, Bell said, had followed the legal dispute over the occupation of Coco Palms by protesters, which has been in progress for more than a year. So, they dutifully drove up to Wailua.

When they arrived, Bell said, they confronted a situation they had never imagined. It mirrors the types of conflict many involved in the Coco Palms controversy have experienced. They stepped into the middle of a raid by dozens of police officers to evict the Coco Palms occupiers.

What they had been injected into, Bell said, was a controversy in which “we realized we didn’t want to be on the wrong side of history.”

He said that, as an African-American, he was personally sensitive to the depictions of oppression presented by the Coco Palms occupiers. It hit him very directly and very personally, he said.

Bell said the guards’ assignment was to secure the property after police removed the demonstrators and prepare for Coco Palms Hui, the owner of the property, to, essentially bulldoze the tents and other facilities the occupiers had used for the previous months….

What he and his co-workers saw, Bell said, brought to mind the same conflict many of the law enforcement officers on the scene apparently perceived. Repeatedly, Noa Mau-Espirito, one of the two men a court found to be on the property illegally along with a few dozen other occupiers, tried to engage the deputy sheriffs assigned to clear the property, as well as the private guards, and persuade them that the eviction order was in error.

The police and the guards quickly concluded that they were powerless to resolve that dispute. But, Bell and one deputy sheriff said, they realized there were cultural issues in play beyond the mere existence of a court order and instructions from supervisors to clear the occupiers and remove their property from the grounds….

Quickly after they arrived, Bell said, he and his colleagues — the others young men whose appearance suggested Hawaiian ancestry — concluded they had been asked to do something they could not, in good conscience, do. So, he said, they called their supervisor in Lihue and told him they could not continue the assignment.

To his surprise, Bell said the supervisor told the guards to “follow your conscience.” That meant, Bell said, that the five guards and the field supervisor officially ended their assignment. But they didn’t leave.

Instead, they approached Mau-Espirito and Hepa and described their dilemma. Police would not permit any of the occupiers on the Coco Palms property. So Bell and is colleagues asked the occupiers to describe any items of personal property present in the campsite that they wanted back. And the guards offered to try to find the items and bring them to their owners.

The sheriff’s deputies appeared to be fully aware of this arrangement and did nothing to interfere….

Since the guards had decided among themselves — with the blessing of their employer — to withdraw, it remained unclear Thursday afternoon whether Coco Palms had any alternative arrangements to keep the occupation from simply resuming. The protesters made no immediate move to do so, but their tents and other belongings remained, for the moment undisturbed.

Flashback: Video: Crying Police Apologize to Telescope Protesters

read … Ignoring this issue for over a year but still totally Politicized

Coco Palms: Court Clerk Knowingly Entered Fake Court Order Written by Sex Offender

KGI: …Acoba will consider a petition of the Hawaii Attorney General’s Office to strike from the record a document filed Jan. 26 that appears to accuse Soong, a colleague of Acoba’s, with contempt of court and “perverting the course of justice.” Soong handled the case through a trial that resulted in the order earlier this month evicting the occupiers from the Coco Palms property.

One perspective — that of state and county government — is that Soong issued a legal ruling based on clear Hawaii state law that found the occupiers have no legal right to be present at the ruins of the former hotel. From that perspective, the document accusing Soong is from a fictional court that exists only in the mythology of the Hawaiian separatist movement….

On Thursday, Mau Espirito said he expects a judge of the Court of the Sovereign to be on hand at the courthouse today. That may prompt a new controversy over whether this person is really a judge (in addition to being a registered sex offender).. The Jan. 26 document identifies Moses Enoka Heanu as the chief justice of the Court of the Sovereign….

The filing — 36 pages long — consists mostly of documents detailing the alleged crimes involved in the 1893 takeover, depicting the filing as an “order to arrest grand jury indictment” and “writ of covenant notice to the bench.” They are like those found on many Hawaiian sovereignty websites.

On Thursday, Mau Espirito said the filing constitutes dismissal of the ejectment case in which Soong ordered him, Hepa and several dozen followers off the Coco Palms property. Both men said Soong is subject to “indictment” and that the entire case against them has been rendered void.

This is not the first time something like this has occurred, these court administration sources said, because local court clerical employees and judges understand that many on Kauai, and elsewhere in the islands, sincerely and summarily reject the legitimacy of the United States and state governments based on the circumstances surrounding the 1893 takeover of Hawaii by the U.S. In other words, courts in accord with federal and Hawaii state law have no authority.

“We respect people’s views of the court system,” even if they don’t believe it has any authority, said one court administrator….

read … Coco Palms saga far from over

Hawaii Co PD: How Social Media Creates School Shooting Anxiety

WHT:  …Hawaii Island’s police chief said the decision to post extra officers on public school campuses Wednesday in Puna and Kona was made because social media “fed into the anxiety” of the community in the wake of perceived threats of possible gun violence made on the internet.

Chief Paul Ferreira noted Wednesday police had identified the juveniles thought responsible for the posts, “so having the officers at the schools was just an extra precaution, pretty much to get the community comfortable, because there was a lot of anxiety.”

“On social media, everybody was picking up on it and reading into it,” Ferreira said. “It fed into the anxiety, because people were calling in to our dispatch, to our Pahoa station and to our Kona station, trying to find out what’s going on.”

(This is what Silicon Valley intended when it deployed social media.  Make the demos anarchic. Anarchy feels like power, but it is weakness.  As a result of this manipulation, you could lose your 2nd Amendment rights.  Then your 1st Amendment rights.  Then….)

Capt. Samuel Jelsma, the Puna police commander, said two patrol officers and two community policing officers spent the school day Wednesday at Pahoa High School, while four other officers, including a reserve officer and a recruit, kept the peace at Keaau High and Intermediate schools.

“No issues today, no incidents,” Jelsma said….

read … How You are Manipulated

Fee increase proposed for electric, hybrid cars

SA: …Senate Bill 1011 would impose an extra annual registration fee of $70 for electric vehicles and $35 for hybrids to try to equalize the tax burden between conventional vehicles and the more fuel-efficient hybrids and electric cars. 

Inouye said there are about 7,000 electric vehicles and 25,000 hybrids on Hawaii highways today….

Shem Lawlor, clean transportation director at the Blue Planet Foundation, said…the long-term solution is (wait for it…) a new type of user fee that would be charged to motorists based on the number of miles they drive, (see how this works?) which state transportation officials have been trying to develop…. 

(The ‘long-term’ solution is ALWAYS a tax hike.)

SB 1011 now goes to the full Senate for further consideration.

read … Fee increase proposed for electric, hybrid cars

House bill aims to eliminate fossil fuels from ground transportation in Hawaii

PBN: …A bill currently circulating in the state Legislature would create a new state initiative with the intent of reducing and ultimately eliminating fossil fuels in all forms of ground transportation in Hawaii.

House Bill 2728, which was introduced by state Rep. Chris Lee, D-Kailua, Waimanalo, would create a clean transportation initiative. The state Department of Transportation, in collaboration with the Hawaii State Energy Office and the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, would be tasked with assisting stakeholders in planning to reduce and eliminate fossil fuels from all government-owned and -operated ground transportation by 2035 as well as all ground transportation thereafter….

The bill, which passed its second reading in the House on Feb. 16, has received support from various interest groups during testimony. Honolulu-based investment firm Ulupono Initiative said in its testimony it supports HB2728….

read … House bill aims to eliminate fossil fuels from ground transportation in Hawaii

Honolulu Sea Water Air Conditioning (SWAC) Still a Pipe Dream—But Legislators are Giving it Millions Anyway

IM: …The State Legislature authorized the issuance of Special Purpose Revenue Bonds (SPRBs) to fund the SWAC project in 2005, and extended the authorization in  2010, 2012 and 2014. 

The 2018 State Legislature is considering three bills. SB 2645 SD1 seeks to allow dated EISs to remain valid. The bill needs to be worked on.

There are two bills to finance the project with Special Purpose Revenue Bonds. SB 2715 will have its final committee hearing later this week. HB 2108 HD1 passed the House and was sent to the Senate yesterday…..

read … Honolulu Sea Water Air Conditioning (SWAC) Still a Pipe Dream

Statewide Hawaii Geothermal Power Plants Explored

IM:  The Hawai`i Play Fairway project, funded in part by DOE-Geothermal Technologies Office Award DE-EE0006729, sought to  compile and integrate all geothermal-relevant data to show the probability of encountering a geothermal resource. …

The Humu‘ula Groundwater Research project drilled a two kilometer deep hole in the saddle region of the island of Hawai`i. 

The Maui County Water Use & Development Plan – Lana`i Island found that the hydrogeology of Lana`i is unusual in various respects, among them the predominance of high level water, including the presence of high-level brackish water accompanied by geothermal heating in the area of the Palawai basin.

Some hot spots like Puna are being recharged, hence they are renewing themselves. Other hot pockets like Hana, the slopes of Haleakala, and Waimanalo are renewable in that geothermal is considered renewable but as the pocket is tapped it is used up….

The location and emission of geothermal facilities is of paramount importance to the local community. 

The Hawai`i State Senate Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection, and Health (CPH) will hear SB 2022 today….  

read … Statewide Hawai`i Geothermal Power Plants Explored

The Jones Act sinks Maui ferry system

MN: …A Maui ferry system “cannot be provided at cost that would be considered economical” — and the Jones Act is partly to blame, according to a report released in December by the state Department of Transportation….

Related: HDoT Negativity: Ferry not Feasible

read … The Jones Act sinks Maui ferry system

Hawaii Legislature looks to regulate video games

GRIH: …While gamers may have issues with loot boxes, they might be less enthusiastic about government intervention, if it comes with a regulatory body dedicated to policing games….

…the urge to legislate may be moving ahead of a more sensible solution: Give the market a chance to work.

The recent outcry grew out of widespread displeasure with a series of high-profile games released in 2017 (including “Star Wars: Battlefront II” and “Middle Earth: Shadow of War”) that angered gamers with what they perceived as a particularly unfair loot box mechanic. The backlash over the “Star Wars” game was so bad that the company behind it was forced to apologize. Sales of the game were below expectations and Disney, which owns the “Star Wars” brand, is even rumored to be looking for a new publisher for the next “Star Wars” games.

Obviously, the technology industry moves and adapts with lightning speed. Considering that government typically moves very slowly, attempts to regulate how game companies make their profits will always be three steps behind.

Instead of rushing to regulate games, we should trust consumers to push the industry toward transactions they find acceptable. Game companies can help by becoming more transparent about the random loot mechanics.

And legislators can keep their focus on things like hospitals and budget crises instead of worrying about whether someone who’s old enough to die for his country is old enough to buy a virtual reward box….

read … Regulate games

Police: Kamehameha Schools faculty member had sex with student on campus, at home

HNN:  …A Kamehameha Schools assistant band director sexually assaulted a student multiple times on campus and at his and her home over a period nine months, new court documents allege.  

And on at least one occasion, he allegedly emailed a colleague to get the child out of class so he could have sex with her.

James Maeda, 24, has pleaded not guilty to nine counts of first-degree sex assault and one count of third-degree sex assault.

Court documents released Thursday reveal the extent of the relationship he allegedly had with a student when she was 14 and 15. In the documents, the victim told police that her sexual relationship started in June and continued through this month….

The allegations came to light just days after Kamehameha Schools settled a massive sexual abuse case for $80 million following years of abuse by a school psychiatrist…. 

SA: Student excused from class for sex, police say

read … Sex

U.S. can't respond as fast to disasters in Hawaii, Alaska as mainland

USA Today: The United States isn’t prepared to respond to disasters in Hawaii, Alaska or on Pacific Islands as fast as on the American mainland, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said.

Islands such as Guam could suffer the same fate as Puerto Rico, where thousands of residents are still waiting for power to be restored five months after Hurricane Maria struck the island.

In the rest of the country, the Corps has plans in place for emergency power generators, debris removal crews, bucket trucks and linemen to roll into mainland states as a storm recedes. Those plans did not apply to Puerto Rico, where the Caribbean Sea posed an obstacle to getting supplies and people to the island. 

Lessons learned from the slow pace of restoring power to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria last September should be applied to other isolated states and territories, including Hawaii, Alaska, the U.S. Virgin Islands and U.S. atolls in the Pacific, said Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers….

Future planning should include identifying priorities in every city and permanently parking supplies and equipment on isolated states and territories for emergencies, Semonite said.

“I’m not satisfied that people in Puerto Rico should have to wait 158 days for power,” Semonite said Wednesday. “It’s too long.”…

read … USA Today

Man who admitted Hawaii concert scam wants plea change

AP: …A North Carolina man who admitted defrauding the University of Hawaii of $200,000 by lying about being able to produce a Stevie Wonder fundraiser concert wants to take back his guilty plea, but a prosecutor said Thursday he could risk more jail time if he succeeds and is eventually convicted.

Marc Hubbard had been scheduled to be sentenced in federal court in Honolulu Thursday but filed a motion to withdraw his plea a day earlier.

He pleaded guilty in 2016 to wire fraud, saying he lied about his ability to secure Wonder for a concert. In 2012, the university paid a $200,000 deposit (approved by a dozen-plus UH Administrators), began selling tickets and then learned neither Wonder nor his representatives had authorized a show.

Thousands of tickets were refunded, embarrassing the school.

Details about why Hubbard wants to withdraw his guilty plea were not clear because his motion was sealed. Defense attorney William Harrison in a court hearing alluded to a "coercive nature" of Hubbard's plea deal with authorities but did not provide details….

read … Smarter than UH Administrators

Feds: Lawmakers have no authority over Olelo channel move

SA: …Senate Bill 36 would require the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs to prohibit a cable operator from changing the channel number of a public- access provider, such as Olelo, unless it has reached an agreement with the affected provider.

However, according to Ji Sook “Lisa” Kim, administrator of DCCA’s Cable Television Division, the Federal Communications Commission gives only limited authority to “local franchising authorities” such as hers.

“The federal rules explicitly state that LFAs may not impose requirements on cable operators regarding the provision or content of cable services,” she said. The only authority over channel assignments that the federal rules specifically give to local franchise authorities is to require that cable operators provide 30 days written notice of changes, Kim said….

read … Lawmaker pushes to stop Olelo channel move

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