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Friday, February 01, 2019
February 1, 2019 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:13 PM :: 1010 Views

Hawaii GE Tax Hits 105.08% of Personal Income

UH Regents Reject Plan to Cut Tuition Rates

Kauai Dairy Quits: "No Regulatory Path Forward"

City steps up approach to control feral cat population

Tourist Arrivals up 5.9% for 2018

Hawaii Congressional Delegation How They Voted January 27, 2019

Birth Tourism Bust: Hawaii Easier to Clear Customs

Looking for housing in all the wrong places

Monsanto, Blue Planet, Exxon Mobil, 350 Hawaii -- Support Carbon Taxes

IM: … A Carbon Tax is a family of policies to tax one or more forms of greenhouse gases produced or consumed by one or more sectors of the economy to provide funds to financially support one or more sectors of the economy.

Carbon Taxing is becoming popular.

Carbon Taxes are supported by Monsanto, Blue Planet, Exxon Mobil, Sierra Club, PG&E, 350 Hawai`i, General Motors, Hawai`i Department of Land and Natural Resources, Siemens, Elemental Excelerator, Honda, Hewlett-Packard, Xerox, Volvo, Organizing for Action, Statoil, Young Progressives Demanding Action, Nissan, Patagonia, Hawai`i Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Commission, and

Various Republicans and Socialists.

HB 1584 was heard by the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee yesterday. The idea is that the University of Hawai`i should study the idea for two years so some future Legislature could do something.

HB 1584 focuses on carbon, not methane and other greenhouse gases.

Hawai‘i Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice submitted written testimony.

“A carbon tax could impact Hawai‘i’s low-income and working-class families the hardest because they spend proportionately more of their earnings on items like gas and utilities. That’s why we support a study to look at the feasibility and potential effects of a statewide carbon tax. We emphasize that it is crucial for the study to explore mechanisms to mitigate the regressivity that could result from carbon pricing.

The conservative Land Use Research Foundation of Hawaii (LURF) “generally supports the general intent of HB 1584, however, we respectfully recommend amendments which will result in a more comprehensive study of both green fiscal incentives and a possible carbon tax.”

Life of the Land raised concerns, quoting the World Bank: “While the production-based emissions of the early industrialized countries has begun to decrease, their consumption-based emissions have continued to grow, with the gap between the two becoming increasingly significant.”

In other words, the West is outsourcing carbon emissions, exporting polluting industries, buying back the products, remaining the number one consumer of greenhouse gas emissions, and blaming others for rising emissions….

Meanwhile: Lawsuits Close in on Hawaii’s Largest Carbon Credit Scheme

read … Monsanto, Blue Planet, Exxon Mobil, 350 Hawai`i -- Support Carbon Taxes

Unintended Consequences of Clean Energy Initiative

SA: Politicians passing resolutions calling for “100% renewable energy” should give us pause. Currently, that term applies almost entirely to electricity generation, not the total displacement of fossil fuels it implies. Non-fossil fueled electricity may well be achievable in Hawaii (Kauai is almost there). Elsewhere, not so much….

… A significant constraint to displacing all fossil fuels is air travel. U.S. jet fuel production is about 2 billion gallons per day, and it’s the only fuel for commercial and military aircraft known to man. So far, no one has seriously suggested that aircraft could be powered by any other energy source. With refining processes yet to be developed, crude oil might yield 20 percent jet fuel, instead of 10 percent. In that optimistic scenario, we would “only” have 80 percent of the barrel of crude oil left to dispose of, just to keep aircraft in the air. And jet fuel costs would become astronomical.

Economic disruption is the other side of an unbalanced retreat from fossil fuels. With the rush to electrify all road vehicles, the market for ground transportation fuels would ultimately disappear. No demand equals no income for refiners, which would put them out of business quickly. “Good!”, some may say. But if we want to have airplanes and ships transporting people, food and goods — as well as an active military, paved roads, propane, petrochemicals, paint, plastics and millions of other petroleum-derived products — we will still need refineries. The prices of these other products will have to make up for the loss of ground transport fuel income or refineries will disappear and we won’t have them….

read … Consequences

Environmentalists plan to rally against proposed Big Island bioenergy plant

KHON: … Hu Honua was not legally required to provide an environmental impact statement because the federal government considers this a carbon neutral process.

On Thursday, the health department said in a statement, "The DOH is carefully reviewing the permit applications and we have identified a number of issues that need to be addressed, including the impact of cooling water on near shore marine life." It says it has no timeline on coming to a decision.

Beimler says, "We're asking them to take steps in continuing to delay this project as well as, in the end, not accepting their permits which are pending now for wastewater discharge and injection wells."
Malama Hamakua is planning a protest rally on Friday to make sure the health department gets the message. Members will be sign-waving in front of the Department of Health’s Clean Water Branch on 1582 Hawaii Belt Rd. in Hilo on Friday, February 1, at 4 p.m. The public is welcome to join….

More on Malama Hamakua at https://www.malamahamakua.org/…..

read … Environmentalists plan to rally against proposed Big Island bioenergy plant

No to Regressive Fuel Tax Hikes

KGI: …Some of the online comments gave an early indication of what at least some folks thought of the proposals to raise the gas tax. We share some of them here:

• The only things our legislative branch seem to be capable of are oppressive regulation and increased taxation. Lucky we live Hawaii.

• Once again the residents of Hawaii are expected to bear the burden of road deterioration caused by increased tourist traffic.

• YES! we should encourage our local and state officials to make Hawaii too expensive to visit.

• Taxing hard-working families via a gas tax only penalizes and does not provide a solution to a problem that will continue to expand without controls.

• But first, before any increase is approved or implemented, a thorough and independent audit of all state gas tax funds for the last 20 years must be completed.

• Take, tax and spend…..take, tax and spend…

• Wonder how many times the gas tax has gone up and we are still sitting in the Kapaa crawl?

• Perfect…first the county hikes the hugely regressive GET; now the state plans to up the tax on gasoline which is also regressive. All this for road and highway work that I wager will never happen.

Higher taxes on gas and vehicles impact the working class, those who already struggle to get by….

read … Consider other options before tax hike

How Oahu Road Supply is Purposefully Restricted to Create Traffic Jams

CB: … Between 1995 and 2017, Oahu added 190 miles of roadway to its street and highway grid, according to state research. That includes state, city and private roads.

During the same time, however, the state saw 190,000 more vehicles registered to use those Oahu roads, according to the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism — a 31 percent increase. The total number of vehicles is about 792,000 now.

Oahu’s population, by contrast, increased during that time by only about 12 percent.

Furthermore, the island’s roads absorbed 1.6 billion more vehicle miles traveled in 2017 than they did in 1995….

read … Too Few Roads

Kim Asks Legislature for GE Tax Hike Flexibility

HTH: … Mayor Harry Kim asked state lawmakers in Honolulu on Thursday to grant more flexibility in how counties can use their general excise tax surcharge.

Kim said that’s needed to help avoid a (insert excuse here)…

“The whole county budget is in jeopardy,” he said, while addressing a joint meeting of the Senate Ways and Means and House Finance committees.

“… We need the general excise tax, we need the (transient accommodations tax), to help us just balance the budget.”. (LOL! Does anybody actually believe this stuff?)

Kim didn’t state how big of a budget gap the county might expect in the next fiscal year that begins July 1. But he did use the dreaded “L” word — layoffs.

“Additional cuts will have to be made, including the ugliness of laying off people, which we don’t want, obviously,” he said (trying not to bust out laughing).

read … Kim seeks GET flexibility

Star-Adv: It Takes Real Political Skill to Stick it to Seniors, Disabled

SA: … The City Council is gingerly, delicately, carefully, tentatively considering a bill to raise bus and HandiVan fares a bit. Obviously, it’s a hot-to-the-touch issue. And there is nothing hotter or touchier than raising the fares on senior citizens or people with disabilities — even though, compared to regular fares, they are quite low.

A regular annual bus pass costs $770; a senior/disabilities annual pass costs just $35. Attempts to raise the senior annual fare, whether to $120 or $45, have been roundly panned….

SA: Don’t raise bus fares on senior citizens

read … The tricky job of raising bus fares

Caldwell the only Permanent Staff on Rail Project

CB: … The damning audits of the Honolulu rail project keep coming, but we don’t have to wait for the next two due from the state to react to what we have learned so far.

Rail officials rushed early contracts to get construction started “for political purposes,” one reason for ballooning costs that they repeatedly tried to hide from the public.

To this day, many top project managers are third-party consultants who are not held accountable by the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation.

After the release of each audit last month — two from the state and one from the city — Honolulu’s mayor issued statements welcoming and applauding the findings of each. What was missing was any acknowledgment of Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s own substantial role in rail’s history….

HART leadership has changed over the years. Same goes for the Honolulu City Council, which awaits a special election April 13 to vote for either a Caldwell ally or a Caldwell foe. A contract is still to be awarded for the rail system’s final segment. And it is still not clear how we will pay for operations and maintenance.

The one constant in all this is Caldwell, who remains to this day the public face of rail. Two more audits from the state are expected in the coming weeks, and their findings and conclusions are not expected to reflect well on the project and all those involved….

read … Honolulu’s Mayor Must Own Up To Rail’s Failures

Airbnb criticizes Hawaii attempt to subpoena host records

AP: … Airbnb is pushing back against Hawaii's attempt to find tax delinquents by subpoenaing 10 years' worth of invoices, receipts and other records from the home-sharing platform's island hosts, calling it an unprecedented, "massive intrusion" that violates state and federal law.

The company said in a state Circuit Court filing Wednesday that the request would cover detailed, private data from about 16,000 people. The state has failed to show why it should be allowed to "invade the privacy rights of Airbnb and its users on this massive scale," the company said.

It's the latest clash between the San Francisco-based company and local governments. In New York, a U.S. judge last month shelved a city law that would have required home-sharing platforms to reveal hosts' names and other information. New York City established the law so it could crack down on illegal listings and impose fines.

U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer, in issuing a preliminary injunction, ruled that forcing home-sharing platforms to reveal a "breathtaking" amount of information about their businesses seemed unconstitutional.

In the Hawaii case, Airbnb's attorneys argued that allowing the subpoena would be equivalent to authorizing the state to go door-to-door in search of people violating the law — something that is unconstitutional.

Hawaii has been trying to make sure vacation rental operators are paying transient accommodation taxes….

HTH: Hawaii County releases draft vacation rental rules

read … Airbnb criticizes Hawaii attempt to subpoena host records

Airbnb in Honolulu has high demand, low return on investment, study finds

PBN: … Looking over the Best Cities to Invest in Airbnb list, we were struck by the absence of any cities in Hawaii among the top 50, especially when towns not particularly known for high-value real estate — sorry, Toledo, Ohio — made the list.

Moreno Valley, California, was the No. 1 market, where Airbnb hosts could see annual profits of $33,720 off average daily rates of $226 and an occupancy rate of 70 percent. At No. 10 was Shreveport, Louisiana, potential annual profit of just about $20,000. In 50th place, Amarillo, Texas, where hosts could see profits of $12,012 off average daily rates of $97. The full report can be seen here,

PBN inquired with Tricia Harte, outreach manager at Digital Third Coast, about Hawaii. We certainly were measured. "When we started gathering data for this study, we looked at cities with populations over 150,000," she said in an email to PBN. The research looked at 142 cities in the United States, plus a few outside of the country, and published the results for just the top 50 cities.

"Honolulu ranked 104 out of the 142 cities with the potential profit of $5,964 to be earned from renting Airbnb," she said. "[With an] average rental of $193 per night and an occupancy rate of 76 percent."….

read … Airbnb in Honolulu has high demand, low return on investment, study finds

Almost Half The Senate Signs On To Bill To Legalize Recreational Marijuana

CB: …The prospects are promising for the measure in the 25-member Senate, but Gov. David Ige opposes legalization….

(Translation: Ige is making it easy for legislators to pander to potheads.)

SB686: Local lawmakers continue to push legalizing recreational marijuana

read … “Soma”

Ban on (tobacco) cigarette sales proposed for Hawaii

KHON:  …Hawaii could be the first state in the U.S. to ban the sale of cigarettes, if a current proposal becomes law.

(Precisely as predicted: Hawaii is legalizing marijuana and outlawing tobacco.)

Adults younger than age 30 could be legally prohibited from buying cigarettes in less than a year's time -- and all cigarette sales would be banned in Hawaii in five years -- under a bill by State Representative Richard Creagan. The bill was co-signed by Representatives John Mizuno, also a Democrat, and Cynthia Thielen, a Republican.

"We're taxing them, that did decrease use somewhat, but we still have 140,000 people in our state that smoke cigarettes. You don't see them as much anymore, because we kind of made them hide. But, they're going to die, half of them are going to die if they keep smoking, and we can prevent that."

Creagan dismisses the argument that his proposal would take away a smoker's civil liberty, saying it is something the tobacco industry has long cited (and is therefore invalid, LOL!). KHON2 was unable to reach the American Civil Liberties Union for comment on this story. …  (ACLU suddenly goes silent!)

… In addition to smokers' addiction, Creagan says the state also is addicted -- to 110-million dollars in annual, cigarette-tax revenue. While Creagan would prefer the ban be immediate and total, he realizes beneficiaries of those tax dollars, the UH Cancer Research Center and John A. Burns School of Medicine, can't go cold-turkey. That is why the ban would be unrolled in phases….

read … "Prohibition"

Auditor to look at DPP building permitting delays

SA: … The Honolulu City Council adopted a measure Wednesday instructing its auditor’s office to look into why it takes so long to obtain a building permit from the Department of Planning and Permitting.

Resolution 18-284, introduced by Councilman Joey Manahan, asks the city auditor to conduct a performance audit of DPP’s processes for reviewing building permits.

Building and construction industry leaders have been increasingly voicing frustration about the time it takes to get permits approved….

In November, the Council approved Bill 64 (2018), requiring DPP to process applications for one- and two-family dwellings within 60 days of receiving them provided they agree to use the one-time review process. Mayor Kirk Caldwell allowed the bill to become law without his signature….

SA Editorial: A closer look inside the DPP

read … Auditor to look at DPP building permitting delays

SA  Editorial: Election system needs reforming

SA: …  State Rep. Sylvia Luke, for one, has expressed her favor for a move to a “top two” primary election system, similar to what California, Louisiana, Nebraska and Washington have adopted. In this system, candidates of all parties compete in a single primary race, with the top two, regardless of party, advancing to the general.

Advocates point to Hawaii’s political domination by the Democratic Party. They say this would ensure that the general election, which draws more voters, becomes the main event, rather than a rubber-stamping of the Democratic primary.

Opponents counter that a top-two primary could eliminate minority-party slots on the general ballot. However, a top-two primary also could take on a nonpartisan feel. Competitive Republican challengers who step up and make the cut have a real chance to win voters by General Election Day.

In a state where the GOP has become moribund, a measure of upheaval could yield positive change.

>> Hawaii has suffered from low voter participation and has tried many things to prod people to the polls. Same-day registration, easy access to absentee ballots, mail-in and early walk-in options have not achieved optimal results.

A further improvement would be automatic voter registration (AVR), an idea that also has been introduced at the state Capitol.

There are various approaches to this, but in Oregon, where AVR took effect in 2016, all drivers become registered voters at the point of receiving their license, unless they opt out. It has proved to be an effective way to usher new voters — especially younger ones — toward the ballot box….

read … Editorial: Election system needs reforming

Stadium Authority Deploys Fake Rust Report

SA: … Aloha Stadium will require “at a minimum” $30 million from the legislature over the next two years to fund needed repairs to keep the facility safe and operable, the Aloha Stadium Authority said at its meeting today.

The announcement came following the authority’s discussion and adoption of a 2018 structural and safety evaluation by its structural engineering consultant, Wiss, Janney, Elster Associates.

The 66-page report identified approximately 200 weathered steel members and 85 panels of lightweight deck that “exhibit severe corrosion.” 

Big Q: Should $30 million be spent over the next two years to maintain the deteriorating Aloha Stadium?  (Questions are false dichotomy based on fake rust report.)

KITV: More Rust Pics

read … Hold on to your wallet

Council Give First Approval to Plastic Straw Ban

SA: … on Wednesday, the Council:

>> Gave the first of three OKs to Bill 97 (2018), banning Oahu restaurants from handing out single-use plastic straws unless they can prove it would be a financial hardship to not use plastic straws. Councilwoman Carol Fukunaga, chairwoman of the Public Infrastructure, Technology and Sustainability Committee, said she has scheduled a hearing for the bill. The state Legislature is considering several proposals to ban plastic straws statewide, or to at least not distribute them unless requested by a customer.

>> Gave first of three OKs to Bill 96 (2018), relaxing new requirements imposed last year on owners of older high-rise condominiums without sprinklers. The bill makes it easier to obtain life safety evaluations as required under another condo fire safety bill passed last year in response to the 2017 Marco Polo high-rise fire.

>> Gave second reading approval to Bill 83 (2018), allowing motorists to flash their hazard warnings lights when stopped at a crosswalk to help a pedestrian to cross safely. Councilman Ron Menor, the bill’s author, said the intent is to warn other approaching vehicles to stop.

>> Gave second reading approval to Bill 73 (2018), installing parking meters in the parking lots at Aala and Kamamalu parks. The meters would allow motorists to park up to three hours at $1.50 an hour. The bill also increases the rate at the Honolulu Zoo parking lot to $1.50 an hour from $1 an hour.

read … Council Straw Man

Make example out of trouble-making homeless

WHT:  … “What a bunch of (bleep),” said the owner, who has cleaned up meth pipes and used condoms when opening his early morning establishment….

Kona’s reputation has already taken a hit. When tourists and locals use words like uncomfortable and intimidating, stakeholders should sound the alarm. No, sitting on the seawall in the afternoon isn’t illegal. But squatting and soiling state lands, blocking sidewalks with junk, using illegal drugs, being drunk and aggressive in public and vandalism are. And that’s what we’re talking about….

Plans are moving forward on a large-scale emergency homeless (TENT CITY) site in West Hawaii that may be operational inside of four months off Kealakehe Parkway in Kona.

The project would devote a roughly 5-acre portion of what will eventually be a 15-acre parcel comprising the proposed Village 9 site to immediate homeless housing. The rest will be built out in the months and years to follow….

the Hawaii Police Department needs to make this the priority the community is begging it to be.

“I’d say we don’t deal with that many of them,” explained Sgt. Joseph Stender Jr., with the Hawaii Police Department’s Community Policing Division, in the Sunday story. “The total number compared to how many we actually interact with that are violating laws, the number is fairly small.”

If most of the problems posed by the homeless population are caused by a handful of individuals, men and women uninterested in life off the streets, then crack down on them….

Prolific, aggressive sweeps will catch these repeat offenders as they violate laws they’ve grown accustomed to breaking.

And then the police must treat them as repeat offenders. Seriously.

Putting the petty criminal with a substance abuse problem away cleans up the village, sends a message to the rest of the violators, and gives the perpetrator a legitimate shot at rehabilitation because under lock and key, sobriety will be forced upon them.

Stakeholders, police included, estimate it’s as few as 10-20 individuals causing a majority of the problem, at least in the Old Industrial Area. Our jails have room for 10-20 recidivists, regardless of the nature of their crimes. How many misdemeanors does it take to make a felony?….

WHT: Hawaii Island homeless problem exacerbated by widespread misconceptions

read … Make example out of trouble-making homeless

HUD renews homeless funding for Hawaii and Guam

HNN: … The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded $11,382,280, renewing support for 26 previously funded homeless assistance programs in the State of Hawaii and U.S. Territory of Guam.

These funds, provided through HUD’s Continuum of Care Program, are part of the approximately $2 billion awarded to support 5,800 local programs nationwide on the front lines of serving individuals and families enduring homelessness. View a complete list of all the state and local homeless projects awarded funding….

read … HUD renews funding for homeless assistance programs in the State of Hawaii and Guam

Gabbard has 16th-Highest Staff Turnover in Congress

CB: … As Politico reported, several people familiar with the campaign over the past several months described Gabbard as a candidate who “managed to be both indecisive and impulsive.”

This isn’t the first hint that Gabbard, who began serving in Congress in 2013, might be difficult to work with.

Gabbard’s office has had some of the highest turnover in all of Congress, according to data analyzed by Legistorm as part of its “Worst Bosses?” review of public salary disclosures and other congressional records.

When looking at staffing from 2001 to 2017, Legistorm found that Gabbard’s turnover score ranks 16th among her current colleagues in both the House and Senate.

However, 2018, which wasn’t included in the Legistorm analysis, appears to have been a much better year for her when it comes to retaining her employees. It’s the first year her office turnover has been less than the House average.

She’s also had relative stability in one of her most important positions — chief of staff — since 2015 when she hired Kainoa Penaroza.

2015: Tulsi Gabbard Hires Cult Associate as Chief of Staff

read … High Turnover In Gabbard’s Office Preceded ‘Tulsi 2020’ Problems

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