Hawaii 39% of Homeowners are 'Equity Rich'
Applications Being Accepted for Maui County Boards and Commissions
Nine New Democrats Elected to House
Ninth Circuit Considers Plea of Guam Elders in Airport Land Compensation Case
Anti-Pesticide Hysteria: Enviros Shift from Bees to Birds
Who’s Who: 2019 Legislative Committee Chairs
CB: …Speaker Scott Saiki will remain at the helm in the House, with Finance Chair Sylvia Luke controlling the overall state budget and any bill with a money component….
The House has reduced its overall number of committees by two, consolidating those chaired by Reps. Matt LoPresti and Kaniela Ing, who lost their bids for state Senate and Congress, respectively….
Of the 17 House committees, the most notable change is that Rep. Chris Lee will become chair of Judiciary. He previously chaired the Energy and Environmental Protection Committee, which Rep. Nicole Lowen will take over….
Lee will determine which bills to hear from the thousands that must pass through the Judiciary Committee before a final vote by the whole chamber. In the past, those measures have involved marijuana dispensaries, medical aid in dying, gun control, election reform, lobbying, government transparency, lotteries, gender rights and wildlife protection, among others.
He’ll be taking the reins from Rep. Scott Nishimoto, who agreed to chair Judiciary for two years but did not intend to keep the post long term. He won’t be chairing a different committee next session, which begins in January, but will be overseeing the grants-in-aid process as a Finance Committee member, Saiki said….
The House has also broken up its Health and Human Services Committee, which was chaired by Rep. John Mizuno. Next session, Mizuno will chair the Health Committee, and Rep. Joy San Buenaventura will chair the newly named Human Services and Homelessness Committee.
The House took the opposite approach with education, consolidating the Higher Education and Education committees, which were chaired by Reps. Angus McKelvey and Justin Woodson, respectively. Woodson will chair the Education Committee and McKelvey will chair the Economic Development and Business Committee, which Rep. Cindy Evans had chaired. She lost her bid for another two-year term….
As an overarching topic, Saiki said lawmakers should spend the next year examining state finances, especially within the Department of Education.
“It’s important to examine that question before we commit to provide additional funding,” he said…
The majority caucus met Wednesday. Majority Leader Della Au Belatti told the caucus that she was beginning to put together the majority caucus package of bills — the House’s priority for the next session — and was seeking input from members, Saiki said….
The Senate is expected to announce its reorganization plan any day now. But lawmakers and other sources, speaking on background, said the main leadership structure will stay in place….
A couple of key committees will likely have new leaders though. …
Sen. Karl Rhoads is expected to serve as Judiciary Committee chair, taking over for Sen. Brian Taniguchi, who will chair the Labor Committee that Sen. Jill Tokuda had overseen until she left to run — unsuccessfully as it turned out — for lieutenant governor.
Sen. Russell Ruderman is expected to serve as chair of the Human Services Committee, which Sen. Josh Green had led until his successful run for LG.
Sen. Donna Kim, who had chaired Government Operations, is expected to instead chair Higher Education. The former Senate president has a long history of holding the University of Hawaii accountable, including holding a series of investigative hearings several years ago.
Sen. Kai Kahele, who had chaired Higher Education, will be taking Rhoads’ spot as chair of the Water and Land Committee….
read … Hawaii Legislature: Leadership Will Stay The Same Despite New Faces
Time to plan for next election already here
Cataluna: … It’s not too soon to be thinking about the next election, even if everyone’s sick of it all right now.
Many local political players have been thinking about 2020, and even beyond, since before the 2018 general election, plotting their strategy and their career trajectory. Voters have to think ahead and strategize, too.
If we don’t want to end up in two years where we ended up this time, we have to start looking for leaders ASAP. That means encouraging people who have the right skills, aptitude and related experience. That means being honest with wannabes or has-beens who just don’t….
read … Time to plan for next election already here
HART’s P3 Plan Another Bad Sign For Rail
CB: …The Honolulu rail system is projected to lose millions of dollars every year after opening in 2026. So it’s baffling that any company would want to partner with the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation to help finish and operate it, unless that company was hoping to collect money from taxpayers instead of ticket sales….
read … HART’s P3 Plan Another Bad Sign For Rail
FAR would hurt all homeowners
SA: … Gordon Pang’s article on monster homes failed to mention the unintended consequences of using a floor area ratio of 0.6, rather than the longstanding system of using 50 percent lot coverage (“Council to review ‘monster house’ criteria,” Star-Advertiser, Nov. 12).
The public needs to be aware that all property owners would lose the ability to build or expand their homes by 40 percent. The proposed bill does not take into account the effect on additions, remodels or proper- ties with conditions common to Oahu, such as up/down slopes, flag lots, or irregularly shaped property….
read … FAR would hurt all homeowners
Blaisdell vision costs too much
SA: …the latest plan put forward by Mayor Kirk Caldwell is too much, at least for the foreseeable future.
In unveiling the draft environmental assessment document detailing the plan, Caldwell said a private partner is being sought to help shoulder the cost of the redevelopment and would operate the complex in exchange for fronting some construction help.
There’s nothing wrong with that ideal, but the bottom line is still a jaw-dropping price tag. When the Blaisdell project’s master plan was released in March, the estimate was $716.8 million, but now, only nine months later, it’s risen to $773 million.
Rising cost projections comprise much of the public anxiety over the city’s troubled rail project. So taxpayers are reasonable to fear that too much of that burden will land on them, even with a fairly attractive public-private partnership….
read … Blaisdell vision costs too much
Maui Vacation rental fines inviting legal trouble
MN: … On Nov. 6, Maui voters decided to drastically increase the fines for illegal short-term vacation rentals on Maui, which could expose the county to dangerous legal challenges.
Article I, Section 12 of the Hawaii Constitution protects citizens from “excessive fines.” Currently, vacation rentals that are not licensed by the county face a fine of $1,000 per day, which already seems excessive. The ballot initiative increases that to $20,000 for the first day, plus $10,000 for each day afterward.
This means that someone operating an unlicensed vacation rental for 99 days would owe $1 million, and this certainly seems to be an “excessive fine.”….
read … Vacation rental fines inviting legal trouble
Oahu retirement home clarifies assisted suicide rules—ACLU Not Satisfied
AP: …An Oahu retirement home said Tuesday residents in its independent living wing may take advantage of the state’s new medically assisted suicide law if they wish.
But Kahala Nui told residents in a memorandum this week that those in its assisted living and nursing center may not do so.
Kahala Nui CEO Pat Duarte said the new measure allows health care facilities to determine whether they want to participate in provisions of the law. Kahala Nui’s health center won’t participate, he said.
A lease Kahala Nui has with the Roman Catholic Church prohibits the home from assisting, promoting or coordinating medically assisted suicide, he said.
The statement comes after the American Civil Liberties Union earlier this month demanded that Kahala Nui stop discriminating against non-Catholic residents and allow them to take advantage of the law if they wish.
The ACLU of Hawaii issued its demand after receiving an anonymous tip that Kahala Nui had notified its residents that they would not be permitted to exercise provisions of the law.
Joshua Wisch, the organization’s executive director, said in a statement he was encouraged that Kahala Nui had informed its independent living residents that they could take advantage of the law. Other parts of the home’s response require “further review and our legal staff is currently studying them,” he said….
read … Oahu retirement home clarifies assisted suicide rules
It’s not just that Hawaii can’t hire enough teachers. Schools also can’t convince them to stay
HNN: … In 2013, Hawaii schools hired 907 teachers.
Five years later, just 467 of them remained in Hawaii public school classrooms.
That’s a five-year retention rate of just 51 percent — down from 54 percent the previous year ….
Worth noting: Of 1,114 teachers who resigned from Hawaii schools in the 2017-18 school year, 423 (or about 38 percent) said they were leaving Hawaii, the DOE said. The second biggest reason for leaving: Retirement….
Meanwhile, in the 2018-19 school year, there were 521 teacher vacancies at Hawaii public schools.
That’s down slightly from the year before, but way up from five years ago, when there 367 vacancies at schools….
CB: Hawaii’s Teacher Shortage Is Getting Worse
PDF: HR_11152018_Goal 2 Strategic Plan
read … It’s not just that Hawaii can’t hire enough teachers. Schools also can’t convince them to stay
Council: Hike Bus Fares 300% for Seniors
CB: …An annual bus pass for an adult would cost $880 under the new proposal, an increase of $110. (14.3% hike)
Senior citizens would see the most dramatic increase in fares. Monthly passes for seniors would double from $6 to $12, while annual passes would jump from $35 to $120, an increase of over 300 percent.
Those eligible to use the Handi-Van would see their cost for an annual bus pass drop, however, from $35 to $10.
The new rates are scheduled for an initial, first reading vote on Wednesday. The new rates would still need to pass two more readings by the full City Council. If it does pass, the new rates would take effect Jan. 1….
Roger Morton, head of Oahu Transit Services, hopes the price reduction as currently proposed would encourage more Handi-Van users who are able to ride TheBus to do so…..
The average bus trip costs Honolulu about $2.60, while the average Handi-Van trip costs about $42.
Handi-Van fares would be raised by 25 cents from $2 to $2.25….
CB: Unanimous Honolulu City Council Moves Forward With Higher Bus Fares
Meanwhile: Uber Caldwell: Level the Playing Field for Everybody Except HandiVan
read … Bus Fares Will Likely Increase For The Second Year In A Row
Honolulu Council Working to Reestablish Kakaako Homeless Tent City
HNN: … Seven months ago, the Hawaii Community Development Authority gave the city permission to conduct homeless sweeps on its land. But today, dozens of tents still line the perimeter of several Kakaako makai parks.
In addition to granting the “right of entry,” the HCDA voted to give Kakaako Waterfront Park, Kewalo Basin and both gateway parks to the city.
Ross Sasamura, the city’s facilities maintenance director, says the 41-acre land transfer would allow them to beef up enforcement and move squatters who repeatedly refuse shelter. But the deal has yet to be approved.
“It’s been put on the agenda at the City Council but it has been deferred at least twice,” said Sasamura.
He added that the Caldwell administration wants to create a base yard for its homeless enforcement team on a piece of land they would acquire from the state. That way crews are nearby and will have the ability to sweep Kakaako makai every day.
But until the deal goes through, he says the city doesn’t have the manpower to conduct enforcement in the area more than twice a week.
On a recent weekday, rows of tents sit across from the entrance of the Children’s Discovery Center alongside piles of rubbish.
Douglas Sencio is one of a couple dozen campers who’ve moved back in Kakaako Waterfront Park. It reopened earlier this year after squatters caused $178,000 in damage…
(Skip several paragraphs of homeless people making excuses.)
read … Homeless continue to skirt Kakaako sweeps despite agreement intended to end cat-and-mouse game
Slow-Moving VA System Keeps Homeless Vets on the Street
KITV: …Former Marine Emil Buckley got a non-service injury in 2010, which caused him to lose his job and after being unable to work he ended up homeless last year.
"Slowly over time I went through my life savings trying to support myself, and eventually filed for social security disability. I was just approved last month, but it was a 2.5 year process," said Buckley.
He isn't the only Hawaii veteran waiting on benefits payments
More than 2,200 veterans have submitted disability compensation claims. Those take more than 3 months, on average, to process before checks go out.
"How are those veterans supposed to pay their bills, and keep their apartment?" asked Buckley.
Veterans complain about delayed benefits as well as healthcare that falls far short of what they need.
"Mental healthcare is difficult. We get in to see psychologist and they tell us to come back in 2 months but there is no one available for 7 months. That is 7 months without being able to speak to someone or address my meds," added Buckley.
At the U.S. Vets center at Kalaeloa, where Buckley now stays, veterans can get assistance to connect to benefits. They can also get help dealing with substance abuse or alcohol problems which affect 60% of the incoming veterans.
They have a transitional place to live, while they regain skills or education as they get ready to return to regular life. But there is a lack of place to go from here.
read … After the holiday, what's next for Hawaii's homeless veterans?
How Prosecutors Blew Pimp Case
SA: …Honolulu police say in state court records that they started investigating McCoy after receiving information from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that links McCoy’s prostitution activity to a fatal shooting outside a Waikiki nightclub in September last year. A McCoy associate is awaiting retrial in state court for murder.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Brady told Senior U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway on Tuesday that the investigation failed to meet standards of law enforcement and his office.
Mollway had previously dismissed a sex trafficking charge involving one of the alleged victims after the chief investigator, Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Cole Masutani admitted that he failed to turn over 133 text messages between him and the woman and failed to keep records of the communications.
McCoy denies pimping prostitutes. He said in open court, however, that he didn’t force anyone to sell sex for money. He said the women were prostitutes before he met them and continued to prostitute themselves after he was arrested. Sex trafficking involves the use of force, threats of force, fraud or coercion….
(IQ Test: Did you know that forcing another pimp’s ho to work for you is still sex trafficking?)
Believing that the government was not prepared, McCoy asked to go to trial as soon as possible with a judge, not a jury, deciding his fate. Roberts also elected to have a non-jury trial.
McCoy also chose to be his own lawyer. Roberts was represented by court-appointed counsel.
At one point McCoy said he would admit to everything in the indictment after misinterpreting legal precedent from another case. He believed that the government needed to prove he was a pimp before coming to Hawaii.
(OK. Lets just stop there and exact justice. But no….)
Mollway commented that because of McCoy’s experience with the criminal justice system, he is confident in his ability to represent himself, perhaps over-confident.
The trial started in September with one of the alleged trafficking victims testifying about communications between her and Masutani that neither the defense nor prosecution were aware of. Mollway dismissed the charge involving that witness. Both sides became aware of more undisclosed evidence as more witnesses testified.
Because of the continuing late disclosure of government evidence, Mollway contemplated last month but ultimately decided against dismissing the case. She said because there is no jury, she can halt the proceedings to give the defense time to investigate evidence as it receives them. Mollway said she can also recall witnesses. She said this as the trial was about to go on an agreed-upon one-month break.
The trial was supposed to have resumed today. During the break, the government dropped all charges against Roberts and dropped the charges involving the minor girl against McCoy. The trafficking and child pornography charges involving the girl would have been the toughest for McCoy to defend against.
Also during the break, Masutani said for the first time, under oath, that a cellphone, which he used to communicate with the alleged trafficking victims, had been destroyed and replaced with another cellphone.
Brady told Mollway last Thursday that an HSI lawyer later gave him new information suggesting that Masutani lied….
read … How to Blow a Case
Analysis: Lane Could Have Destroyed Thousands of Aging Honolulu Homes
CB: … In late August, Hurricane Lane narrowly spared Hawaii’s densest and most populous island from widespread damage. But what if it hadn’t?
A new analysis prepared by the Maui-based Pacific Disaster Center estimates how much wreckage Lane would have caused if it had hit Oahu’s southern shore as a Category 1 hurricane instead of breaking apart hours before landfall. The impact, it found, would have been devastating to many Honolulu homeowners.
Under the “what-if” scenario, the tropical cyclone would have displaced 3,800 families on Oahu, leaving those mostly wooden homes either severely damaged or completely destroyed by sustained winds of up to 94 miles per hour.
With roofs torn off, walls ripped away or tree branches and other large debris hitting the homes, they “would be in the ‘destroyed’ and ‘major (damage)’ category,” Doug Bausch, PDC’s science advisor, said Tuesday.
The worst of the damage would have centered around Waikiki, according to the analysis, which was presented at a public meeting about Honolulu’s disaster preparedness on Nov 1.
Overall, Oahu would have suffered some $3.7 billion in damage had Lane made landfall at the lowest level possible for hurricane strength. The vast majority of that damage — 94 percent — would have been inflicted on residential property, according to Bausch….
read … Analysis: Lane Could Have Destroyed Thousands of Aging Honolulu Homes