Lesbian Home Invasion: Supreme Court Considering Whether to hear Hawaii Case
House Committee to Hear Anti-Gun Bills
Judge Allows OHA, UH to Scrap for Mauna Kea Money
Seeking Applications for Independent Grand Jury Counsel – Second Circuit
State won’t pay rail invoices subject to subpoena by feds
SA: The state has warned the Honolulu rail authority that it will not release funding for invoices that are being scrutinized by the federal government as part of the ongoing federal investigation of the city rail project, according to state Comptroller Curt Otaguro….
The state Department of Accounting and General Services reviews invoices from the Honolulu rail project to determine whether they qualify for state funding, and Otaguro said he instructed the rail authority “not to submit any invoice that is in question under the federal subpoena and investigation.”…
As of the end of last year, DAGS had refused to reimburse HART for invoices worth $40.4 million until rail officials provide more information, Otaguro said.
DAGS is not flatly rejecting those invoices, Otaguro said, but instead is asking for additional documentation to confirm they qualify for funding from the proceeds from the state hotel room tax and the half-percent excise surcharge on Oahu, which provide most of the funding for rail.
Last year the state reimbursed HART for $317 million, or 89 percent of the invoices it submitted, Otaguro said. However, DAGS has so far refused to pay for other claims, including $14.6 million to settle delay claims filed by contractors working on the project.
That’s important because HART has agreed to pay an array of delay claims to contractors, including one for $160 million that is to be paid to Ansaldo Honolulu JV as compensation for six years of delays on the project. If the state refuses to reimburse HART for those expenses, that could have a significant impact on rail’s finances.
DAGS said in a Jan. 4 letter it was returning the delay claim invoices without paying for them because HART provided insufficient documentation that the claims are actually construction costs….
DAGS also has withheld reimbursements for $16.4 million in payments for right-of-way acquisitions because HART has not provided evidence that it has actually acquired title to the properties involved, according to Otaguro’s letter….
2016: Feds: $540M in Highway Funds can be spent on Rail
read … State won’t pay rail invoices subject to subpoena by feds
Pacific Club Shindig: More Political Insiders Get Behind Kahele for Congress
SA: …Former Gov. Ben Cayetano has thrown his support behind state Sen. Kai Kahele’s bid to win the congressional seat held by Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, joining former Govs. Neil Abercrombie and John Waihee who said last month that they were supporting Kahele.
The three former governors will also serve as honorary co-chairs of the Kahele for Congress campaign committee, according to a press release issued by Kahele’s campaign today.
Kahele, who has represented Hilo in the state Senate since 2016, is holding a fundraiser tonight for his congressional campaign at the Pacific Club in Honolulu and has another one planned for March 28 in Hilo.
News Release: 3 Former Hawai‘i Governors Endorse Kahele For Congress
read … Ben Cayetano supporting state Sen. Kai Kahele’s bid for Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s seat
Spending soars in special election race for City Council seat
HNN: … Only 22 votes separated them in the November general election, but nearly $70,000 separates them for next month’s special election.
A Hawaii News Now analysis of campaign spending records shows that Tommy Waters is outspending Trevor Ozawa nearly three-to-one for the race for the east Honolulu City Council seat.
“It’s a pretty dramatic lead and it does give a good indication that he is going to be very competitive in this race,” said University of Hawaii political science professor Colin Moore.
An examination of electioneering reports filed with the Campaign Spending Commission show that since last month, Waters has spent about $102,000 in newspaper, television, radio and direct mail ads.
By contrast, Ozawa has spent about $35,000.
That doesn’t include $22,700 in ads that the United Public Workers union is spending to promote Waters’ campaign. Other unions are likely to throw their support for Waters in the coming weeks, sources have said….
Ozawa thinks most of the money is coming from the public employee unions and supporters of Mayor Kirk Caldwell, whom he’s clashed with in the past….
The spending figures are a reverse of what happened in last year’s election. Ozawa spent a total of $530,000 while Waters spent $212,000, state Campaign Spending records show.
A more complete report on the candidates’ campaign finances is due on April 3….
read … Spending soars in special election race for City Council seat
Nadamoto claims Kaneshiro not in Charge
SA: … Acting Prosecuting Attorney Dwight Nadamoto insisted Thursday that he is in charge of day-to-day operations at the city prosecutor’s office despite several visits in the past week by Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro, who is on paid leave.
“He’s not running it. He may have been there physically, but he’s not running the office,” Nadamoto said Thursday. “He’s never told me what to do, and, as far as I know, when he’s been there he’s only been in his (personal) office.”…
Nadamoto told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that he personally saw Kaneshiro “two or three times maybe and not for a long period of time — maybe an hour, two hours” during the past week. He exchanged greetings with his boss, but the two had no conversations about office business, he said.
Nadamoto said Kaneshiro was in his office to pick up personal items but has been blocked from accessing the department’s internal case management system and other information exclusive to the office. “He got blocked out of everything,” he said.
Brooks Baehr, a spokesman for the Department of the Prosecuting Attorney, said Kaneshiro spoke with the office’s executive assistant, Carol Nakamura, on Wednesday morning. “They agreed it was in everyone’s best interest that he not spend time in the office while on leave,” Baehr said.
Nadamoto acknowledged that he has had a close relationship with Kaneshiro. Nadamoto’s resume shows he was deputy prosecutor from 1989 to 1996, and then from 2010 until the present, which is roughly the periods Kaneshiro has been in the office. All deputy prosecutors serve at the pleasure of the prosecuting attorney….
At a department briefing Thursday before the City Council Budget Committee, Councilwoman Kymberly Pine asked Nadamoto whether he is doing anything to ensure there is no wrongdoing at the agency.
Nadamoto said the agency will look into making it easier for deputy prosecutors to report any improprieties they might spot in the department….
read … Kaneshiro not in charge, acting prosecutor says
SA Editorial: HPD settlement needs explanation
SA Editorial: … Susan Ballard became chief of police in November 2017, acknowledging the need to address “a lack of trust of the leaders of the department both internally and externally.”
A decade-old lawsuit that alleged Ballard had doctored police-recruit test results and destroyed records was settled last week to the tune of $550,000, and in a few days the chief and her overseers have the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to restoring trust. They should take it.
The Honolulu Police Commission is giving Ballard her first performance review as the head of the Honolulu Police Department, and on Wednesday the panel will discuss the public release of Ballard’s evaluation, as well as the data contributing to the review….
An assessment of this lawsuit in particular — Dee Ann Koanui vs. City and County of Honolulu — should be part of that public review. Koanui, who had been in charge of recruit testing, alleged that Ballard was involved in tampering with the test scores….
Ballard did not return requests for comment, but Michelle Yu, department spokesperson, relayed a statement on Thursday. The allegations had been investigated by HPD, the city Ethics Commission, the police union and the city’s Equal Opportunity Office, “all of which did not uncover facts that supported the allegations,” the statement read.
“In resolving this case, Chief Ballard informed the court that settling the case was based on economic reasons that was in the best interest of all parties concerned… that she stood by the decisions that she made while she was the major at HPD’s Training Academy, all of which were reviewed and approved by her superiors.”…
read … HPD settlement needs explanation
$500 Red Light Camera Tickets
SA: … How much would a ticket be with that red-light camera?
Not more than $200 for the first offense, up to $300 for a second violation and up to $500 for a third or subsequent violation, if committed within one year of the first offense, according to Senate Bill 663, Senate Draft 2, the measure under consideration in the state Legislature. You can read the bill at 808ne.ws/sb663….
read … Bill cites efficiency of red-light traffic cameras
Hawai‘i Businesses Speak Out Against Proposed Minimum Wage Increase
BIN: … The Chamber of Commerce Hawai‘i and Hawai‘i’s business community testified in opposition to a proposed minimum wage increase, HB1191 HD1, at a State Senate hearing on Thurday, March 14, 2019….
“I buy local sweet potatoes from Hawai‘i’s farmers. My competitors on the mainland and in Asia pay half of what I do for potatoes and much less than $10.10 an hour for labor,” Jimmy Chan, owner of Hawaiian Chip Company said. “These companies are able to undercut my prices by as much as 50% in stores here in Hawai‘i. Another increase to the minimum wage will likely push my product out of Hawaii’s market, too.”…
“If the minimum wage is increased, I believe we will be forced to pass on our cost increase to our customers just to stay afloat,” Kurt Osaki, president of Kaua‘i Ice Distributors said. “We provide an important product that is used and needed by local consumers and visitors on a daily basis. The increase in cost will create yet another domino effect that will do greater harm than good. I can almost assure you that we may be forced to reduce employee hours or initiate layoffs just to stay afloat.”
The Chamber’s testimony raised concerns with conflating a minimum wage with a living wage. It also argued that raising the minimum wage would not solve Hawaii’s high cost of living issues, considering the high cost of goods, utilities, and other employer mandates such as the Prepaid Health Care Act.
read … Hawai‘i Businesses Speak Out Against Proposed Minimum Wage Increase
Bottles, utensils and bags: Lawmakers are coming for your single-use plastics
HNN: … An ambitious measure that would institute a broad ban on single-use plastics in Hawaii ― including plastic bottles, utensils and straws ― is gaining traction at the state Legislature despite widespread concern among businesses.
Senate Bill 522 sailed through the Senate and passed two key House committees Thursday.
It’s also been referred to two additional committees, though no new hearings have been scheduled….
Lawmakers are proposing to ban all sorts of single-use plastics under the measure, from food packaging to plastic bags and utensils to polystyrene foam containers.
The bill would go into effect in phases.
By 2021, state and county government agencies would be banned by buying, using or selling single-use plastic items….
The following year, all food establishments would be subject to the ban.
And by 2023, the ban would institute an outright ban on the use or distribution of plastic bags….
“These types of bans only hurt the little guys, the mom and pop restaurants,” said Christina Adolpho, general manager of Waiahole Poi Factory, in testimony submitted to lawmakers.
“I work seven days a week, sometimes as long as 12 hours a day. Think about that, we are not a huge restaurant with a lot of staff. Our profit margins are thin. We use Styrofoam containers for a few reasons, but cost efficiency is a big one.”
Several government agencies have also raised concerns about portions of the measure, including the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, which said the law should allow for the use of single-use plastics in emergency situations….
Supporters of the measure, meanwhile, say it recognizes the
harmful impacts of plastics on Hawaii’s ocean ecosystems (prayer wheel of the eco-religion).
read … Bottles, utensils and bags: Lawmakers are coming for your single-use plastics
State proposes permanent villages of tiny homes for the hardest to house
HNN: … Tiny homes would create what the state has dubbed Kauhale villages.
Up to 300 people would live at each village. Kitchens and restrooms would be shared along with common areas.
Green says he wants to see up to 10 villages statewide with six on Oahu, two on the Big Island and one each of Maui and Kauai.
Next month, leaders from both the city and the state will meet to pick the parcels of land….
Green said it would like to see the first two Kauhale villages in Waianae and Waimanalo.
“The communities would make their own rules,” said Green. (Translation: They are still going to try to slip tents cities into this.) “It will be accepting people whether they come with their dogs or if they are in a relationship or single. There would be some small amount of rent. The threshold is about $250.”…
John Kaulupali lives in Kakaako Gateway Park. Last month, he along with members of the community called on government to cease homeless enforcement and work with them to find a place to stay. On Thursday, he threw his support behind the Kauhale concept….
“The structures don’t take long to put up. It’s actually more of getting the land and choosing it,” said Green. “It has to have enough infrastructure. And it has to be something tha people will actually accept.”
Each village is expected to cost between $2 and $5 million. Green says Housing First money could potentially be used fund part of the project….
(NOTE: Be wary. The tent city crowd is behind this.)
KITV: Hypodermic needle discarded on Maui beach cuts beachgoer
read … State proposes permanent villages of tiny homes for the hardest to house
Ballard Pushing Homeless Tent Cities Modeled on Chinatown ‘Success’
SA: …Police Chief Susan Ballard said HPD is working with Lt. Gov. Josh Green to obtain state funding to establish temporary “Lift Zones” or “Mobile Navigation Centers” that would provide short-term refuge and services at city parks for the homeless to stay…
The Lift Zones would be
run by HPD and staffed by medical professionals (activists) in sections of specific parks for no more than 90 days.
… Ballard said HPD will be reaching out to the neighborhoods and stressing that the Lift Zones are designed to be temporary, controlled tent areas. “We can’t just say, ‘Not in our backyard,’” the chief said. “It’s going to be in everybody’s backyard. So everyone’s going to share the pain regardless of which part of the island you’re on. We’ve all got to be part of the solution. … We gotta do something because it’s out of control now.”
Ballard said HPD is also looking at establishing more joint operation centers, which provide small-scale health care and treatment for those in need.
The program has proved successful in Chinatown, and the department is looking for a location in Kakaako, Ballard said. “We’re looking to have four or five more of those, hopefully. We’d love it before the end of the year.”…
read … Tent Cities
Ala Wai project will affect 37 private properties
SA: …A $345 million project to lessen flood risks at the Ala Wai Canal is moving quickly through the state Legislature despite concerns from property owners, including 37 who would be directly affected….
About four owners would lose their entire properties to the plan…
The plan calls for building a 4-foot concrete wall around the canal and placing six in-stream debris and detention basins in the upper reaches of the Ala Wai watershed that flows into Waikiki. The project also includes pump stations, a stand-alone debris catchment and three multipurpose detention areas in open spaces throughout the watershed.
Some of the affected private-property owners turned out Thursday to voice their opposition to Senate Bill 77 during a dual hearing before the House committees on Energy and Environmental Protection and Water, Land and Hawaiian Affairs. The bill would provide $125 million to meet a federal cost-share requirement for the project, which has been gathering steam since receiving $220 million in congressional funding last year….
SB77: Text, Status
read … Ala Wai
Bill To Create An Airport Corporation Advances — With A Very Big Catch
CB: … Backers of an independent corporation to run Hawaii’s airports say it needs freedom from the state’s time-consuming procurement process. Key lawmakers disagree….
Senate Bill 666 passed out of the House Transportation Committee, but not before the members voted unanimously to hold the corporation subject to the state procurement code “during the transition and thereafter.”
Nonetheless, the state’s largest airport user — and one of Hawaii’s largest employers — insists it needs an independent process to manage the airport that isn’t tied to the state’s Legislative schedule or the whims of the latest administration in power.
“Our kamaaina (local) and malihini (visitor) travelers begin and end their vacations with an antiquated and stressful airport experience,” Blaine Miyasato, Hawaiian Airline’s Vice President for Customer Service, said in written testimony supporting the bill. “
We have a long list of upgrades and we have both the budget and will among the user groups to fund them. But the process has failed us, year after year.”
S.B. 666 next faces joint review by the House Labor and Judiciary committees. If approved there, it moves to the Finance Committee….
This year marks the first time that Unite Here Local 5, the local union representing hotel and hospitality industry workers in Hawaii, has formally weighed in on the idea. So far, it opposes the measure as proposed on behalf of the 900 concession and in-flight catering workers it represents at the state’s airports….
read … Bill To Create An Airport Corporation Advances — With A Very Big Catch
Times of the signs: Holiday Inn still waiting, 5 years later, for sign approval
WHT: … Fritz Harris Glade, addressing the council by telephone, outlined a litany of inattention, lost documents and miscommunication from the department. He said he worked with the design commission and together they came up with an acceptable compromise that the commission forwarded to Public Works in a 2015 letter….
“From my perspective, this has been … I don’t know how to say it politely, but it hasn’t been a pleasant experience. The drawings have been lost at least three times that I’m aware of by the county. … We’ve been kind of the orphan child in this application,” Glade said. “I just feel like I’ve been pistol-whipped here. … We’ve been trying to do everything we’re supposed to and I’m at a loss for what to do next.”…
read … Times of the signs: Holiday Inn still waiting, 5 years later, for sign approval
GIA: Legislators Feel Their Power Over Nonprofits
CB: … In a cavernous auditorium underneath the Capitol, a long line of supplicants waited anxiously for a turn at the podium.
Tuesday marked an annual ritual in Hawaii, the day when nonprofit organizations that have submitted the right paperwork are invited to appear before a panel of stern lawmakers to make their pitch for money.
Some 295 organizations have asked for grant-in-aid funding this year; only a fraction of them will get it later in the legislative session….
One change this year is that lawmakers are traveling to Maui and the Big Island to repeat the process, giving neighbor island nonprofits an easier opportunity to make their case without flying to Honolulu….
read … Nonprofits Get 3 Nerve-Wracking Minutes To Make Pitch To Legislators