A Threat to Judicial Independence
Keanu Sai, Dexter Kalama: Sovereignty Activists Mortgage Fraud in Court (Again)
ILind: … The Office of Consumer Protection, the state’s top consumer watchdog agency, has accused three people, including two prominent Hawaiian sovereignty advocates, of committing mortgage rescue fraud through a scheme “targeting homeowners desperate to save their homes from foreclosure.”
In a series of legal filings in both state and federal court since the beginning of 2018, the consumer protection agency alleges the scheme involves David Keanu Sai, an activist scholar who has vigorously promoted his own theory that the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom invalidates subsequent laws and land titles; attorney Dexter Kaiama, who has defended a number of sovereignty activists with arguments based on Sai’s theory; and Rose Dradi, a former Kapolei resident.
In court filings, Sai and Kaiama have strongly denied doing anything illegal. Dradi could not be located and has not responded to the allegations.
The agency alleges homeowners facing imminent or threatened foreclosure were told, both explicitly and implicitly, that a legal defense based on Sai’s sovereignty beliefs would result in the foreclosures actions being dismissed and their homes being saved….
The Office of Consumer Protection’s allegations became public beginning in early 2018 when it intervened in an existing foreclosure against an Ewa Beach couple who had stopped making their mortgage payments in 2011, and defaulted on the remaining loan balance of more than $300,000.
The lender initiated foreclosure proceedings in March 2015. OCP alleges the couple paid a total of $7,250 in advance fees in their attempt in order to obtain the services they believed could block the foreclosure and save their home. Most of the fees went for the services of Sai and Dradi, with additional amounts going to Kaiama, who was paid to make a “special appearance” in court to present a defense based on Sai’s written motion.
OCP alleges Kaiama has appeared on behalf of consumers facing foreclosure in no less than 200 cases. In at least 100 of those cases, the agency says Kaiama argued that the court lacked jurisdiction based on Sai’s sovereignty theory….
ILind: Keanu Sai claims “diplomatic immunity” shields him from fraud allegations
read … Two sovereignty advocates hit with allegations of mortgage rescue fraud
Corruption in Hawaii: Complacency Starts at the Top
SA: …There are a few positive developments that any fair assessment must acknowledge:
>> Where government inefficiency is concerned, it is good to see that, for one, the state Department of Education is streamlining the contracting process by prequalifying multiple contractors for a full range of jobs, a management protocol that should be replicated.
>> Regarding oversight: Lawmakers this session have authorized an independent supervisory commission for the state corrections system. This should light a fire under the Department of Public Safety, which is the subject of a federal complaint for prison conditions, to improve its accountability.
As for the most worrisome cases, the jury is still out.
State lawmakers have called on the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation board to maintain closer oversight of operations, adding state representation on the board toward that end. Among its ongoing woes: A January state audit faulted HART’s use of contract hires who are not overseen or evaluated by the agency.
Further, a private auditor hired by the state reported a week ago instances of contractor overpayment, although it’s unclear how commonly that happens. And what the federal investigators may find out is yet to be discovered.
The Kealoha case shows even more starkly what can go wrong when supervisors turn a blind eye. More recently, the Honolulu Police Commission has strengthened its oversight of the Honolulu Police Department.
But it’s impossible to overlook the old-boy network on the force that enabled the behavior of the chief, or to forget that this commission had given Kealoha a glowing review in the midst of the whole scandal.
Currently, the spotlight seems to point most glaringly at the City and County, with the Kealoha investigation also sweeping Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro and Corporation Counsel Donna Leong into the Justice Department sphere of interest.
What’s most disconcerting of all is that top leadership has not made an issue of rooting out corruption. Hawaii residents would benefit from seeing Mayor Kirk Caldwell and Gov. David Ige, who too often seem defensive or downright silent on the issue, be out front and center with an agenda for reform, holding their department heads to account….
read … Corruption in Hawaii grows with complacency
Rail: Fed-Forced City Payment Just the Beginning of Billions
SA: … Joey Manahan, Council Budget Committee chairman, wants to amend next year’s proposed construction budget to snag a new $25 million in borrowed funds for rail construction.
Caldwell said that rail officials “feel that they don’t need the money now.”
He asked rhetorically, in a statement that is destined to become part of his legacy: “So, what’s it mean? We pay more now and pay less later.”
Rail’s critics and doubters don’t believe that for a minute.
Randy Roth, a retired law professor who has participated in several actions to stop the project, warned that taxpayers have not really started to pay for the overbudget $9.2 billion project.
“The city will be spending billions of dollars on rail in future years, which means property taxes will have to be increased dramatically because of rail,” Roth said in an interview with me.
What is so worrisome is that, as the state auditor noted, the city has consistently shown that the project is marked by “overpromising” and “under-delivering.”
“The city’s share of total construction costs will be relatively small,” Roth said, although pointing out that “it’s a big deal politically because it spotlights past deception and can’t be hidden from taxpayers.”
The big deal is not building the 20-mile transit project; it is paying for the people to run it, finding the money to keep it in decent, safe shape and eventually paying more to renovate and repair it.
“Just imagine what it will be like when city officials are forced to discuss funding for the huge amounts required each year. … These numbers will dwarf the ones discussed (now).”
At the same time, a criminal federal grand jury continues to investigate the project for what could be crimes and not just budget- busting ineptitude.
read … Oahu’s runaway train taking with it runaway budget
Special Session to Fix Water Mess? Amid Finger-pointing, Nobody Knows How Water Will Flow After Dec 31
MN: … In the wake of a state legislative session that sank a bill to extend controversial water permits, the County of Maui is assuring 36,000 Upcountry water users it’s working on options to ensure delivery once the current permit expires.
“We’re going to work with the interested parties to evaluate all the options for providing water to the Kamole water treatment plant through the Wailoa Ditch,” county Director of Water Supply Jeff Pearson said last week. “Then we will determine the best approach to ensure a reliable source for Upcountry.”
Shan Tsutsui, Mahi Pono senior vice president of operations, declined Friday to say whether the company will apply for its own revocable permit, but said it is “committed” to working with the county.
“Following last week’s end of the legislative session, Mahi Pono has been evaluating all of our options to secure water to support farming, food production and for residential use,” he said. “We are committed to working with the county to ensure continued water delivery to Upcountry residents.” …
“Again, Alexander & Baldwin is the only existing revocable permit holder whose water use was declared unlawful by a court of law,” the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. said in a recent response to Gov. David Ige’s support of an HB 1326 version extending A&B permits. “None of the other eight to nine permit holders, or new permit applicants for that matter, need be unduly concerned about a lawsuit to which none was a party, or a court order that cannot be enforced against their specific water uses.”…
Pearson said “all options” are on the table when it comes to how the county will secure water collection after Dec. 31.
When asked whether Mahi Pono, which purchased 41,000 acres of former sugar cane land from A&B in December, would apply for a revocable permit, whether the county would apply for its own RP and possibly help maintain the ditch system, or whether there could be a special session to extend RPs, Pearson declined to answer, saying he did not want to speculate….
read … Finger Pointing
Punatic Senator Ruderman Exposed as Anti-Vaxxer
HTH: … As measles cases grow nationwide and state health leaders monitor mainland outbreaks, one Big Island state senator has expressed more concern about the vaccine than the disease itself.
In a recent Facebook post, Puna Sen. Russell Ruderman shared a link from Collective Evolution titled “Japan Leads the Way: No Vaccine Mandates and No MMR Vaccine = Healthier Children.”
Media Bias/Fact Check, an independent online media outlet that determines biases of news sources, rates Collective Evolution as a “quackery level pseudoscience website based on promoting miracle cures, anti-vaxx propaganda and 9/11 conspiracies.”
In the post, which has since been deleted, Ruderman, who is a member of the Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection, and Health Committee, said he is not “anti-vax,” but is “pro-science. So I don’t reject inconvenient data. Pharma slogans and fear-mongering not welcome here. The multi-billion dollar PR campaigns already cover that stuff well,” according to screen shots of the post taken by a Tribune-Herald reporter.
In a response to a comment on the post about a measles outbreak in Japan, Ruderman wrote that measles “scares me less than complications from injections,” and that the disease is the “poster child for the current fear campaign.”…
read … Ruderman expresses vaccine concerns
Fake ‘Evaluation’ Coming for DoE Sup’t
SA: … Kishimoto’s annual evaluation is on the agenda for the Board of Education’s general business meeting Thursday. Her bosses have already shown their support by voting in January to extend her three-year contract for another year through July 2021. She started Aug. 1, 2017.
“Personally as the board chair, I am very pleased with the work that she is doing,” said Catherine Payne, a former teacher and principal who leads the school board. “I feel like we have a superintendent who is visionary in ways that we have not experienced before. …
(Translation: She spouts the HSTA line.)
read … Dog n Pony Show Set
Chinatown Held Hostage by 172 Bums
SA: … Morning, noon and night in Chinatown they yell at the sky, mutter obscenities, and sleep in doorways where they sometimes reek of urine — or worse.
To frustrated, angry and scared business owners and residents, homeless people are not only ever-present but they are the source of on-going frustrations and concerns in Chinatown.
City Councilwoman Carol Fukunaga, whose district includes Chinatown, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in an email that “Business owners, residents and area legislators agree that conditions are much worse than they were last year. I receive daily complaints and reports of illegal activity, with photos.”…
Some Chinatown merchants have organized themselves over the last few months to hire their own private security patrols and have placed bright placards in their business windows warning against sitting or lying on city sidewalks….
Kimo Carvalho, spokesman for the Institute for Human Services, said that most of Chinatown’s homeless have been there for years…..
“There’s a drug population coming in from Aala park, where they sleep,” he said. “And there’s another crowd, who are nonviolent, who are coming from the outside for food or services. There’s a lot of urination and defecation. You walk down Nuuanu and you can smell it. It’s really bad. The clients are using the streets as a bathroom.”
The 172 homeless people counted by IHS outreach workers mirrors the number that Honolulu police officer Elvin “Boom” Bumanglag sees on the street.
“That seems about right,” Bumanglag said. “Nothing less than that.”…
SA: Community-care services help mentally ill homeless in Hawaii
Homelessness and Drugs: Legislature Didn’t do Much to Solve Mental health Crisis
SA: … There is a lot of talk from elected officials, organizations and individuals about mental health and substance abuse issues. Here is the real question, though: Is anyone actually looking for solutions or are they just spouting talking points?…
There are no residential treatment facilities that accept Med-QUEST for women or youth in Hawaii County. There are no residential treatment facilities that accept Med-QUEST for men, women or youth in Kauai County. If someone under age 18 needs help and has Med-QUEST, he or she needs to fly to Oahu; 67% percent of addicts and alcoholics have suffered childhood trauma. Several bills were introduced; did any of them pass? Nope.
There is a shortage of psychiatrists, therapists and programs across the state that accept Med-QUEST. Why? Because the reimbursement rate is peanuts and no one can survive on it. Did we pass a bill incentivizing professionals to accept this insurance and help people? Nope….
Homelessness is a huge issue, and we talk about mental illness almost synonymously with homelessness. Do we have help available on all the islands? Nope.
Women experiencing domestic violence who have turned to drugs to numb their pain, need help. Domestic violence shelters won’t accept women who are addicted to drugs. So where do they go?…
read … Chinatown grapples with the surge in homeless
Permitting fines for pot crimes may not help many
SA: … People caught with roughly three to five joints won’t be considered criminals under a bill awaiting Gov. David Ige’s signature, but it is unclear how many would actually benefit from the change.
(B-b-but the potheads told us there are a bazillion people in prison for a baggie of weed. We knew they were lying. Now they admit the truth.)
Lawmakers passed House Bill 1383, decriminalizing the possession of 3 grams or less of pot, which would become punishable by a fine of $130 next year if signed into law, making it similar to a parking ticket. Currently, having less than 3 grams is a petty misdemeanor punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and up to 30 days in jail….
From Jan. 1, 2018 through May 10, there were 1,351 arrests for
marijuana or another so-called scheduled V substances, such as stimulants and depressants, according to the Hawaii Criminal Justice Data Center, which didn’t have data on how many people were arrested or convicted for 3 grams or less of pot…
Some opponents of decriminalization see it as a step toward legalization of recreational marijuana.
“It’s the next big tobacco. Everybody knows this is the first step towards full-blown legalization. It’s all about money,” said Rep. Sharon Har, (D, Kapolei-Makakilo), who voted against decriminalization. Har said states that have decriminalization or legalization have seen more drugged-driving fatalities, emergency room visits as well as higher rates of property crime, homelessness and teenage school dropouts.
“One of the biggest issues I have right now is this bill will apply to minors. If a minor is arrested for 3 grams or less, that minor will pay $130 fine and that’s it,” she said. “Marijuana has an absolute detrimental effect on the minor brain. Those kids falling through the cracks will not have access to the court system and drug treatment.”…
read … Permitting fines for pot crimes may not help many
UH Shark Researchers push back against Hawaii shark protection bill
WHT: … The bill remained more or less in tact all the way to conference committee, the last step in the legislative process before moving to the desk of Gov. David Ige for his signature, before it was amended to remove protections for sharks entirely. The same proposed protections as described above, which already apply to manta rays, will be applied to all rays if the governor signs the final version of HB 808 now awaiting him on his desk.
But with dozens of pages of testimony overwhelmingly in support of including protections for sharks, conservationists are wondering what changed.
Sen. Kai Kahele (D-Hilo), Senate chairman of the conference committee that oversaw the bill, said it was concern from the academic community that was behind the last-minute alterations. Potential problems were expressed by the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology of the University of Hawaii at Manoa to House conference committee chairman Rep. Ryan Yamane (D-Oahu), Kahele added.
“They do shark testing (and) research,” Kahele said. “(Yamane) was concerned that some of their concerns had not been addressed. I guess collaboration had not happened with the research component. And so they decided to take the sharks out of the bill.”
Rep. David Tarnas (D-North Kona, South Kohala, North Kohala) also sat on the conference committee. He went into greater detail as to some of the issues the scientific community brought to the table.
“You have to tag these animals, you may have to catch them,” Tarnas explained. “And if you’re not allowed to ‘harass’ them at all, are you allowed to do any of that?”
A stipulation of HB 808 called for the Department of Land and Natural Resources to develop administrative rules to define more closely the freedoms afforded by the measure within the parameters of research activity. But the scientific community found that action inadequate.
Kim Holland, founder of the Shark Research Group that operates as part of UH-Manoa, in testimony described the bill as unnecessary because of how infrequently sharks are sought after by fishermen or otherwise.
“It will be virtually impossible to prove that someone is ‘knowingly’ fishing for sharks,” wrote Holland, adding state enforcement resources are already insufficient for practices the state polices now.
He contended researchers would bear the brunt of the bill, being forced to apply for permits from DLNR personnel without scientific expertise on shark research and limited data from which an evaluation of permit request validity might be drawn.
Holland also said the bill was too ambiguous in defining terms like “take” and “harassment.”
“This is not an environment that is conducive to the long-term perspectives or stability that are necessary to foster the research upon which science-based management depends,” he said.
Kahele said the Senate felt extending protections for all rays was better than nothing and agreed to the amendments. Yet the Legislature’s decision left many disappointed, including President of the Marine Conservation Science Institute Michael Domeier.…
read … Sharks removed from marine protection bill