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Wednesday, January 09, 2019
January 9, 2019 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:23 PM :: 1582 Views

Ill-Fated Ocean Cleanup Boom Collected only 2000kg Plastic

Ige Appoints New PUC Chair 

SPED Parents Asked to Sign up for Medicaid

Ige Reappoints Directors at Eleven Departments

Ige Appoints New Directors at Three Departments

Christian Brothers Oust Damien School President--Dispute Over Child Molestation Settlements

Tech Modernization Plans in the 2019-21 Budget 

Fact-Checking 5 of Trump’s Claims in Border Speech

After 23 Mistaken Prisoner Releases, DPS Experiments with Something Called ‘Email’

SA: … Courts and corrections officials modified their operations after an accused murderer was mistakenly released from the Hilo jail last summer, and the Hawaii island courts now send bail documents to the jail via email as well as having them hand-carried (UPW make-work program) to the facility, state lawmakers were told Tuesday.

(I’ve never heard of it, but apparently email has been around since the 1970s.  So it may be tested enough to satisfy the DPS high standards.)

Hawaii Department of Public Safety Director Nolan Espinda said Tuesday an investigation is ongoing into the release of Honaunau resident Brian Lee Smith from the Hawaii Community Correctional Center on July 24, but said the department has hired more staff and changed its procedures to try to guard against freeing another inmate by mistake….

At a briefing for the Senate Ways and Mean Committee on Tuesday, Espinda said the staff at HCCC never received the bail documents that would have instructed them to hold Smith in connection with the murder case. Smith was therefore released when other cases against him were resolved.

Hawaii uses a hand-to-hand process to transmit documents between the courts and state jails, Espinda said, and “it is an antiquated process that, as you might expect, has its glitches, and the delivery of those documents sometimes do not occur as anticipated.”

As for the Smith case, “It is near impossible to pinpoint where the documentation was not transmitted,” Espinda said in an interview after the hearing. “The jail did not have it, the courts insist that they provided it and we have no reason to believe otherwise. None of us are trying to point fingers at each other.”

The Hawaii Tribune­-Herald newspaper last year reported there have been 23 mistaken releases of prison or jail inmates since 2013, and 16 of those occurred on Hawaii island.

To address that problem, Espinda said, the department has launched a pilot project in the 3rd Circuit Court system on Hawaii island in which court documents are transmitted to HCCC by email, by fax and are also hand-carried “for the sake of public safety on the Big Island.”…

read … Jail and courts change procedures after accused murderer set free

Caldwell’s Climate Change Commission Pushes ‘Congestion Pricing’ Tax

CB: … As it turns out, Honolulu leaders have considered congestion pricing before. Briefly.

In 2007, then-councilman Charles Djou introduced a resolution urging city officials to study whether it would work.

That was during the height of the island’s rail debate, and the idea was specifically floated as a cheaper alternative to the elevated transit project being built today.

“It did come up in the concept of rail,” Djou recalled in a recent interview. “The concept was to more efficiently use our road system … and encourage people to use our mass transit system,” meaning TheBus.

“The idea is, if you take this money with congestion pricing, you return it back” in the form of reduced bus fares, road improvements and other benefits without having to increase the local gas tax, he said.

The council adopted Djou’s resolution, which called for the Department of Transportation Services to identify potential “congestion zones.”

It didn’t get much farther than that.

“Charles Djou is wrong and I will veto that measure if it comes to my desk,” then-Mayor Mufi Hannemann said when dismissing the idea in 2008. “You cannot do congestion pricing when you have not provided enough options or opportunities for people to travel in and out of the city. This is the wrong time to broach it.”

Now, the city’s current chief executive — who once served as Hannemann’s managing director and then bested Djou in the most recent mayoral race — is open to the concept.

“We’ve talked about congestion pricing. We talked about also how do you maybe incentivize instead of penalize?” Mayor Kirk Caldwell said in a recent interview with Civil Beat.

By “we” Caldwell means staff in the city’s new Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency. The office is “looking at a whole bunch of things,” he said, to curb greenhouse gas emissions on Oahu. That includes eliminating the extra fuel that’s wasted when thousands of cars get stuck in traffic.

“It absolutely works,” Caldwell said of congestion pricing.

But he added: “It’s fraught with political problems.”

“It can sometimes impact the very people that are just struggling to make ends meet — those women who do housekeeping in hotels in Waikiki driving in from the Ewa Plain and they have no choice but to leave when it’s peak congestion,” Caldwell said. “If we can find some fairness, some way to create equity for those … who can’t afford it” then the idea might work on Oahu….

read … What Would You Pay To Drive During Honolulu’s Rush Hour?

Hawaii County: More Tax Hikes Coming?

CB: … The Big Island just got a little more expensive, with 2019 ringing in something new — a first-of-its-kind tax that’s expected to cost consumers here $25 million a year.

All retail purchases from a plate lunch to a new truck are now subject to a 0.25 percent surcharge that Hawaii County started adding Jan. 1 to the state’s general exercise tax.

That means a total GET tax on the Big Island of 4.44 percent is collected at checkout….

This could just be the start, however. Big Island leaders may double the surcharge to the maximum 0.5 percent that state law allows — and which is now the rate on Oahu and Kauai.

That’s a tempting prospect for Hawaii County lawmakers who until now have relied almost entirely on property tax revenues to finance local government….

“I was in favor of the half-percent from the get-go,” said Hawaii County Council Chairman Aaron Chung of Hilo. “I don’t see myself changing.”

Although the new surcharge is set to lapse at the end of next year, Chung and others want it extended another decade through 2030, the longest the state allows and the option already chosen by Oahu and Kauai.

Raising the tax to 0.5 percent “is one option that is being considered,” county Finance Director Deanna Sako said in an email….

read … Big Island: Joining The Parade Of Counties That Are Raising Taxes

Solar Fail: HECO bills spike over unusually humid months

KHON: …She  started seeing her electric bill go up to more $140 a month when it's normally $20. She has solar panels in her home and the bills have jumped up since August.

"We haven't change anything, four people live in our house, the same four people for the last three and half years. Nothing has changed, the AC settings have actually gone warmer," she said.

She wanted to see if her neighbors were having the same problem so she started a poll on social media and found out that more than a hundred of them in her area were also getting higher bills. Hawaiian Electric says August through November was unusually humid, driving many residents to use a lot more energy.

"It was extremely humid in October so a lot of people were cranking up the AC's using fans your appliances have to work harder," said Shannon Tangonan, Hawaiian Electric Company spokeswoman.

HECO adds that during that time period there were also a lot of cloudy and rainy days so PV systems were not generating as much energy. …

He says the company has received hundreds of complaints about their bills also. While HECO rates did go up slightly he says the past few months were extreme in high humidity and lower output from PV panels….

read … HECO bills spike over unusually humid months

Hawaii County Lava Relief Package $155M

HTH: … Squatters, homeless, vacation rentals, taxes and an emergency relief package in the wake of last year’s volcanic eruption top the priority list Mayor Harry Kim is presenting to the state Legislature this year.

Kim presented his wish list Tuesday to the County Council Committee on Governmental Relations and Economic Development, which asked him for monthly updates as the regular session gets underway Jan. 16….

Kim is asking the Legislature for more flexibility in how the county can spend its quarter-cent general excise tax surcharge, a multi-million-dollar package to recover from the Kilauea eruption, legislation to deal with homeless and squatters, a greater share of the transient accommodations tax on short-term lodging and a state law requiring vacation rental operators to post their license numbers in their advertising.

The lava relief package, a $155 million ask over two years, includes funding for a state disaster recovery coordinator’s office, housing assistance, air quality and mental health assistance, an agricultural revolving loan program and other initiatives.

Some 20 people, primarily from Leilani Estates and several in tears, expressed their frustration to the council that they see little happening to improve access to their property and provide other relief…. 

HPR: Weighing Priorities on Hawaiʻi Island

Not Included: HRS 171-93: Law Allows Swap of Lava-Covered Lots for State Property in Zone 3

read … Mayor outlines top priorities he wants state legislators to consider during upcoming session

Suit against Big Island Dairy settled

WHT: … A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit filed against Big Island Dairy that alleged violations of the federal Clean Water Act.

The suit was filed in 2017 in U.S. District Court in Honolulu by citizen group Kupale Ookala and the Center for Food Safety and was scheduled to go to trial this month.

According to court documents filed Tuesday afternoon, the settlement requires the dairy to stop milking no later than Feb. 28, with a target date of April 30 to end all operations, although some young stock might continue to be present into May. It also details timelines for cattle removal and facility cleanups, among other provisions.

By April, the dairy should only have 400 young stock remaining, and by May those numbers should be zero.

Because of the dairy’s “potential insolvency,” the settlement states civil penalties will be levied through the state Department of Health administrative process and no such penalties will be assessed or paid in the resolution of the lawsuit.

All civil penalties collected by the DOH will be paid to an “appropriate supplemental environmental project or environmentally beneficial project” for the benefit of the Ookala community.

The settlement also permits Big Island Dairy to explore the possibility of selling its assets at the site to a buyer who might undertake dairying and milk processing….

According to Tebbutt, parties now have to wait 45 days for comments from the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency before the court can enter the order….

The dairy, owned by Derek Whitesides and Steve Whitesides since late 2011, is located on land leased from the state….

read … Suit against Big Island Dairy settled

Hawaii Supreme Court has more questions for election officials in challenge to Honolulu City Council race

SA: … In its two-page order today, the court said it is giving election officials until the end of day Wednesday to answer the specific question of whether “any mail-in absentee return envelopes received, collected, or ‘swept’ by the United States Postal Service after 6:00 p.m. on November 6, 2018 were set aside and not counted in accordance with law, and whether any absentee mail-in return envelopes received, collected or ‘swept’ by the United States Postal Service after 6:00 p.m. on November 6, 2018 were not set aside and subsequently counted.”

Ballots picked up after 6 p.m. on Election Day were one of the issues raised by Waters in his complaint. Waters has said he believes any ballots collected by city or state election officials after 6 p.m. should have not been counted.

Honolulu elections officials, in its court filing, said that as in past elections, ballots were collected by the USPS by 6 p.m. They were then collected and counted later….. 

read … Hawaii Supreme Court has more questions for election officials in challenge to Honolulu City Council race

City opens Iwilei homeless magnet—designed to keep ‘em comfy on the street

SA: … A place for Iwilei homeless to shower, do laundry, pick up mail and receive other services opened on Kuwili Street at noon today.

The city’s Punawai Rest Stop is designed as a “zero barrier” facility where people don’t need to meet any criteria to use the available services. The facility will is being operated through a $1 million, year-long contract with Mental Health Kokua, which also has been under contract with the city to provide a smaller, shower-and-restroom-only rest stop in Chinatown on Pauahi Street.

Punawai is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, said Surlester McBride, Punawai manager.

Included in the facility are 10 washers and 10 dryers, eight shower rooms and indoor toilets for visitors, and an area where visitors can meet with caseworkers and care providers. All toiletries will be provided free, from toothbrushes to disposable razors and even laundry detergent.

Punawai also provides computers and free Wi-Fi, as well as a pet-washing area.

The four-story Kuwili Street building was purchased by the city for $6.3 million in June 2016. The other floors, including services for those in need of medical and mental health needs, as well as studio units, are slated to open late this year or early next year …. 

read … City opens Iwilei rest stop for homeless

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