Audits, subpoenas and more: What's next for Honolulu Rail?
Are Hawaii officials paid too much or too little?
Hawaii residents voting with their feet
Hawaii Family Forum Legislative Week in Review
Kealoha Lawyer Flees to Canada, Again Delays Grandmother Deposition
SA: … A federal judge on Friday set a new date to take the early testimony of an ailing 99-year-old witness in the criminal trial of Louis and Katherine Kealoha but not before issuing a stern warning to lawyers in the case about their poor communications.
U.S. District Chief Judge J. Michael Seabright rescheduled the deposition of Florence Puana, the grandmother of Katherine Kealoha, for April 30 after the two sides were unable to coordinate an earlier date because of what the judge called a lack of communication.
If lawyers for the government and defendants don’t talk to each other in a meaningful way during next month’s trial, resulting in delays and a waste of the judge’s and jurors’ time, “there will be a price to pay,” Seabright warned them at a court hearing.….
Prosecutors wanted to take Puana’s testimony on Tuesday because she is in ill health, and they are uncertain she will be able to testify at trial, which starts May 15 with jury selection.
Colin McDonald, a federal prosecutor, told Seabright by phone that a priest has visited Puana in the hospital within the past two weeks, an indication of her poor health.
McDonald said he arranged Puana’s deposition for Tuesday without knowing Kagiwada would be in Toronto and after unsuccessful attempts to reach her this week to verify that the date was acceptable. He also pointed out that Kagiwada did not disclose at a prior hearing that she would be in Toronto until April 29.
read … Federal judge reschedules deposition of ailing 99-year-old grandma in Kealoha case
1980s Honolulu Developer Busted in Ponzi Scheme
SA: … Junzo Suzuki, 70, and his son, Paul Suzuki, 40, arrived in custody in the U.S. on Wednesday, and appeared before a federal magistrate who set a hearing next Wednesday to decide if they will be freed from jail pending trial.
Their attorneys, Richard Wright and Junji Suzuki, declined to comment outside court. Junji Suzuki said he is not related to the defendants….
Junzo and Paul Suzuki were arrested in Japan in January, two months after a federal jury in Las Vegas found their co-defendant, Edwin Fujinaga, 72, guilty of 20 counts of mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.
Fujinaga once headed a Las Vegas-based company, MRI International Inc., with thousands Japanese investors-turned-victims.
(Before setting up MRI, Fujinaga spent about two decades in Hawaii’s real estate industry, developing at least seven condo towers on Oahu in the 1970s and 1980s, often with partners. Among his projects were two towers in Waikiki now known as Maile Sky Court and The Windsor, The Summer Palace near the edge of Waikiki off Atkinson Boulevard, Harbour Ridge fronting Salt Lake Boulevard, Sun Hala and Summer Villa in Kapahulu and Hale O Pumehana in Makiki.)
Fujinaga is expected to face what would amounting to the rest of his life in federal prison at sentencing…
From about 2009 to early 2013, prosecutors said more than $1 billion in investments from more than 10,000 Japanese investors was wired to bank accounts in Las Vegas under Fujinaga’s control. Investors were told they were buying claims from a medical collection business, according to the indictment in the case.
Instead, Fujinaga was found guilty of using new investors’ money to pay off previous investors and spending the rest on himself, including a Las Vegas golf course mansion, a private jet, luxury cars and real estate in California wine country, Beverly Hills and Hawaii.
Prosecutors say that when the Japanese government revoked MRI’s license to market securities in April 2013, the firm owed investors more than $1.5 billion….
read … Japanese father, son appear in Las Vegas court in $1.5B fraud case involving former Hawaii developer
Some homeless play the charity cycle
WHT: … We go through our closets and clear out the old stuff. Blankets, futons, old sleeping bags, clothing, etc. These are set aside and donated to charities. These charities sell or give them away to the needy. Many needy people benefit from these compassionate acts of consideration. Others depend on this as a way to enhance their chosen way of life.
This sounds all good and reasonable until those who choose to be homeless arrive in town. They spend a few hours begging then head for the Goodwill places that earlier received your donations of clothing and other goodies. These articles have now been placed on shelves with price tags well within the price range thanks to accomplishment a few hours of begging brought.
The now-equipped camper locates a campsite close to some industrialized complex, learns the location of some other compassionate organization that serves free food to the needy and relaxes to a life of choice. The days are spent begging for more cash or just roaming through town looking for more free stuff. At night, they return to claim articles left in the unsecured open and add that to their collection of possessions. Nights in Kona are beautiful and comfortable except for the occasional disruption of sleep caused by an ambulance or police car responding to some emergency.
Eventually, the cops come along and move everyone out. The homeless-by-choice reluctantly move out leaving all of the big stuff he bought cheaply or stole and is now dirty and considered junk. The county brings in the trucks and clean out the filth and garbage, which at one time was in your closet.
… the cleanup comes with a price that you, the compassionate contributor, pays for again. For the homeless-by-choice, the cycle begins anew ….
read … Some homeless play the charity cycle
University of Hawaii to hold 2nd round of public hearings on proposed rules for Mauna Kea
KITV: … The University of Hawaii Board of Regents approved the request Thursday.
UH officials told KITV4 Friday that they plan to release more information on the hearings and comments next week.
The rules will clarify public and commercial activities on the mountain, (from) which
many Native Hawaiians deem is sacred (OHA expects to collect rent) ….
read … University of Hawaii to hold 2nd round of public hearings on proposed rules for Mauna Kea
The state wants to redevelop the Ala Wai Boat Harbor. That’s got boaters worried
HNN: … Tuesday is the deadline for private developers to submit notices of intent to develop more than 11 acres at the Ala Wai Boat Harbor….
The state Department of Land and Natural Resource’s request for proposals calls for the highest and best use of the property.
Some are concerned that that means highrises will be built and slip fees will soar….
In its request for proposal, the DLNR identified four parcels for redevelopment. The private developer will pay for the construction and will lease and manage the harbor for 55 years.
The parcels include the former site of the Waikiki Landing project, which was canceled after its developer filed for bankruptcy.
The largest parcel, lot A, is a 3.4-acre parking lot. Boaters say redeveloping it will take away much-needed parking and boat storage space….
read … The state wants to redevelop the Ala Wai Boat Harbor. That’s got boaters worried
Honolulu City Council OKs $70 annual tax break for Oahu homeowners
SA: … A bill that would lower property taxes for most Oahu homeowners by $70 a year won final passage from the Honolulu City Council this week despite the Caldwell administration’s concerns that it would cost city coffers more than $10 million in yearly revenue.
Bill 3 would raise the standard home exemption, eligible on properties where the owner is also the occupant, to $100,000 from the current $80,000.
Assuming the rate for the homeowner tax class stays at $3.50 per $1,000 of assessed value, the homeowner with a house assessed at $880,000 would pay the tax on $780,000 of value, resulting in a tax bill of $2,730 rather than $2,800….
The last time the exemption was increased was 2006, when it went to $80,000 from $40,000.
The bill also calls for the standard senior home exemption, eligible on properties where the owner-occupant is at least 65 years old, to rise to $140,000 from the current $120,000….
The mayor has until May 3 to sign the bill, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature.
Among other issues dealt with this week, Council members voted to approve:…
>> Bill 96 (2018), making it easier for owners and associations of older condominium high-rises to comply with a tougher fire safety ordinance, the so-called sprinkler law, passed last year in the wake of the July 2017 fire at the Marco Polo high-rise complex that killed four people. The law calls for the owners of about 350 high-rises built before 1975 to install automated sprinkler systems both in common areas and individual units, or follow through with the recommendations of a required building and life safety evaluation within six years. The new bill would suspend the time clock for those owners who get stalled by delays in obtaining city building permits, and eliminates the need for the safety evaluation if the owners opt to install sprinklers.
SA Editorial: Safety first for walkups
read … Honolulu City Council OKs $70 annual tax break for Oahu homeowners
Public Utilities Commission approves $12.1M MECO rate hike
MN: … On April 17, MECO filed tariffs and rate schedules for a final increase of 3.7 percent, which would generate about $12.1 million in annual revenue. MECO said the increase would help pay for operational improvements, including system upgrades to increase reliability, improve customer service and to integrate more renewable energy.
Regulators approved an interim rate increase in August. Under the interim rate, the typical Maui monthly residential bill for 500 kilowatt-hours increased by about $5 a month. A typical monthly residential bill for 400 kWh increased by about $5 on Lanai and by about $4.60 on Molokai.
The final tariff and rate schedules are subject to the approval of the PUC, which will also determine the effective date. Because the final amount is slightly less than the interim amount that MECO has been charging customers over the past eight months, the utility will issue a one-time refund of $556,200 in June, or about $3 to each residential customer using the typical amount of electricity.
The 3.7 percent base rate increase would be less than half of the original request for a 9.3 percent increase — or $30 million — filed by MECO in October 2017. Under that proposal, monthly bills for 500 kWh would have increased by $13.46 on Maui, while monthly bills for 400 kWh would have increased by $13.83 on Lanai and by $11.25 on Molokai….
(Standard technique to fool the little people: Ask for waaaay more than you need so they will be happy when you get less than what you asked for.)
read … Public Utilities Commission approves MECO rate hike
Self-Dealing Leads to Another delay for Hawaii Co building permits
HTH: … The delay frustrates Kohala Councilman Tim Richards, who said building permit delays are keeping the county economy from rebounding as fast as it should. He asked for a progress report by June 15.
“Our economy needs help. We took quite a hit last year and part of our recovery is getting those houses built,” Richards said. “We want to move the needle. We want to make a difference. I’m asking you how do we do it, but I’m also telling you you’ve got to be doing it.”
The long delay in getting a permit, coupled with low fines for those who don’t have permits, is leading to a lot of people not getting permits at all, said Hamakua Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter.
“Isn’t it true if somebody can’t wait, they build and come back for an as-built,” Poindexter asked. “Are we having a lot of that happen because they cannot wait?” …
Yamamoto said the computer system delay came about because the new software was incompatible with the county’s geographic information system.
“They had to upgrade the Energov software to be compatible with the GIS software,” Yamamoto said.
He said the county is taking extra time with testing and training to avoid a repeat of the last time it tried to install a new program to expedite the building permit process. That one proved a costly failure.
“It was very disheartening to go through that and we don’t want to go through that again. IT (the Department of Information Technology) is stressed out and Planning and Building is stressed out,” Yamamoto said. “We have to make sure we have a working system before we put it live.”
The new Energov system has been controversial.
It was the subject of a complaint before the county Board of Ethics last year after an IT employee, who helped write the request for proposals for the software and was on the committee selecting the winning vendor afterward, was given a sole-source county contract to manage its implementation after she retired from her county job….
The Board of Ethics voted unanimously there was not enough evidence to find an ethics violation, although it cautioned the administration about improperly using an exemption in state procurement code that allows employment contracts for special and unique projects that cannot be recruited through normal civil service channels….
read … Another delay for building permits
Snorkel Rentals Kill
KHON: … A new ocean safety website aims to reduce drownings and injuries in Hawaii.
In a state surrounded by water, it's no surprise that drowning continues to be one of the main causes of death in the Aloha state -- especially for visitors.
While ocean drowning is the fourth leading cause of injury related death in Hawaii. Snorkeling is the most frequently associated with visitor drowning.
Visitors make 55 percent of ocean drowning victims and suffer 81 percent of ocean-related spinal cord injuries. …
HNN: Snorkeler dies after getting into trouble in waters off Hanalei
read … Snorkel Rentals Kill
Soft on Crime: Hawaii Criminal Kills Girl in Ohio
AP: … The State Highway Patrol says the crash occurred just after midnight in Portage County’s Ravenna Township. The passenger has been identified as 22-year-old Brianna Lewandowski of Springfield Township.
Patrol officials say a state trooper stopped the SUV just before midnight Friday for a registration violation. The driver, 27-year-old Joshua Kalili, of Captain Cook, allegedly assaulted the trooper and a police officer called to assist after being removed from a cruiser for “moving suspiciously.” …
read … Soft on Crime