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Saturday, July 13, 2019
July 13, 2019 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:39 PM :: 2239 Views

Hearings to Set Rail Fares

Puerto Rico Relief? Special interests lobby to uphold Jones Act

Ige Appoints New Chief of Staff, COO

Hawaii--3rd Lowest Student Debt

Honolulu Among Worst Cities for First-Time Home Buyers

Senate Confirms Trump Appointee to Ninth Circuit

Thank an Anti Cane-Smoke Activist: Shuttered plantations’ fallow land poses huge risk of fires

SA: … Farms turned into fire fuel.

For several decades this has been a burning issue in Hawaii as the demise of plantation agriculture has given rise to increasingly frequent and big wildfires on fallow farmland where grasses, haole koa and other easily burned vegetation supplanted sugar cane, pineapple and cattle ranching pastures.

So it was no surprise to local fire experts that the closure almost three years ago of what had long been the largest sugar cane plantation in the state would be followed by a giant, out-of-control blaze….

“It was just a matter of time,” said Clay Trauernicht, wildland fire specialist at the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. “It was not if it was going to happen. It was when.”

Trauernicht said the amount of land in Hawaii that has caught fire annually quadrupled to 20,000 acres from about 5,000 acres over the last several decades, and that the main correlation during this time has been the shuttering of plantations.

“It’s pretty much the driver,” he said….

The raging fire in Central Maui began Thursday, and by Friday had grown from an estimated 1,000 acres to around 10,000 acres covering some former HC&S lands.

Concerns that fallow former HC&S fields could feed a fire of historic magnitude were well placed and even a reason for practice.

In early 2017, four months after HC&S made its final harvest, which left cane in the fields, the Maui Fire Department conducted an exercise with more than 150 firefighters because HC&S would not be able to manage risks and fight fires the same way it had for so long in its fields, according to a Maui News report….

Mahi Pono estimated that about 4,000 acres of its land had been burned by the fire.

Big fires on former plantation lands have occurred throughout the state for decades. Just last month a fire on fallow agricultural lands above Waimea and Kekaha on Kauai scorched 2,100 acres — an area that had burned three times previously since 2012…. 

Cataluna: Maui fires bring back memories of scary time

Related:

read … Shuttered plantations’ fallow land poses huge risk of fires

Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation turns over more rail records in response to a federal subpoena

SA: … Some mixed-up files at the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation have forced the rail authority to amend its response to a federal grand jury subpoena for records on the rail relocation program.

HART has acknowledged receiving three subpoenas as part of a U.S. Department of Justice criminal investigation into the $9.2 billion rail project, including one in February seeking information on payments made to tenants and property owners who were relocated to make way for the 20-mile rail line.

It isn’t clear yet what the focus of the federal inquiry might be, but the information demanded in that particular subpoena included 18 files that were part of an internal HART review that discovered potential overpayments to property owners or tenants who were being relocated.

HART discovered those “irregularities” in the relocation payments in late 2017 and reported them to the Federal Transit Administration in early 2018.

The rail authority also provided the relocation records to the Justice Department by March 21 in response to the subpoena, according to HART officials. However, according to a recent report by the rail authority, “additional files were found” by HART staff in April that were also covered by the February subpoena.

Bill Brennan, spokesman for HART, said in a written statement that “there were relatively few additional documents” found in April.

“Most of the documents located were copies of documents that had been originally provided to FTA,” he said in the statement. “Others were an individual’s hand-written notes that were discovered in the right of way files. In an abundance of caution, HART felt it important to turn over everything.”

The rail authority is working with city Corporation Counsel staff to transmit the documents located in April to federal authorities, according to the HART report….

read … Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation turns over more rail records in response to a federal subpoena

Janus: Hawaii Government Union Membership Up 2%

AP: … States that previously allowed mandatory agency fees for at least some public employees had a significantly higher union membership rate — about 53 percent — before the ruling, compared to a 16.6 percent unionization rate in states that did not allow such fees. Since the high court’s decision, that average membership rate fell by about 1 percentage point in agency-fees states while dropping just a quarter of a percentage point in the other states.

The decline in the agency-fee states might have been larger except that “some states made it very hard to drop union membership,” said Macpherson, chairman of the Department of Economics at Trinity University in San Antonio and co-creator of the website unionstats.com.

In anticipation of the Supreme Court’s ruling, Hawaii repealed the ability of union members to halt dues deductions at any time — instead limiting them to a 30-day window before the anniversary of when they signed up.

A New Jersey law narrowed its wide-open revocation window to 10 days each year while also guaranteeing that unions could get the home addresses and personal cellphone numbers of new government employees.

Hawaii’s public-sector union membership rate rose almost 2 percentage points since the court ruling while New Jersey’s remained relatively flat, declining by less than 0.2 percentage points….

Meanwhile: Janus: UH Employee Sues HGEA

read … Up 2%

Mauna Kea: ACLU Makes Advance List of Lawsuit Grounds Against Police

CB: The American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to Hawaii law enforcement urging them to respect the constitutional rights of opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope who are expected to protest construction when it resumes next week.

The ACLU wrote that respecting demonstrators’ rights isn’t at odds with maintaining public safety and urged law enforcement to prioritize de-escalation and non-escalation. The ACLU also asked law enforcement to limit the use of force and communicate clearly with protesters.

read … ACLU Urges Law Enforcement To Respect The Rights Of TMT Protesters

Super PACS Spent $175K to Install Tommy Waters on Council

SB: … The Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission has crunched the numbers on the special election in April for the Honolulu City Council District 4 seat.

Tommy Waters, who defeated Trevor Ozawa 51.4% to 48.5% out-raised Ozawa $310,481 to $227,051 and outspent him $268,216 to 232,953.

That was in contrast, the commission said in its recent newsletter, to the 2018 general election between them. In that race, Ozawa out-raised Waters by a 3 to 1 ratio and outspent him by a 2.5 to 1 ratio….

Two super political action committees were involved in the April contest…. AiKea spent $130,150 to oppose Ozawa while AiKea and the United Public Workers spent a combined $44,764 to support Waters…

read … Super PACS Spent $175K In City Council Rematch

The DOE’s Chief Financial Officer Is Leaving For UH

SA: … The longstanding chief financial officer for the Hawaii DOE is leaving for the University of Hawaii system, according to an agenda item listing new appointments from the UH Board of Regents.

Amy Kunz, an assistant DOE superintendent, was appointed CFO of the Hawaii DOE in September 2011, making her eight-year tenure within DOE central leadership the longest of any of the current assistant superintendents.

She is joining the UH Office of the Vice President for Budget and Finance as associate vice president effective Aug. 1, according to the regents’ agenda. She will report to UH Chief Financial Officer Kalbert Young, UH spokesman Dan Meisenzahl confirmed Friday.

Kunz is the second DOE assistant superintendent to step down in recent weeks: earlier this month, school superintendent Christina Kishimoto announced in an internal memo that Dann Carlson, assistant superintendent in charge of facilities, is leaving July 15 to become the 154th Wing commander with the Hawaii Air National Guard.

Along with Carlson, Kunz was the only carryover from the previous superintendent’s leadership team. Kishimoto became superintendent in August 2017 and largely created a new core team.…

read … The DOE’s Chief Financial Officer Is Leaving For UH

Star-Adv: If Tourism Activists Harass the Little People Enough, Hanalei Bay can become Exclusive Billionaire Playground

SA Editorial:  All this should bring down numbers once word starts getting out….

The renowned citizen activism of Kauaians has resurfaced, this time on guard against over-tourism on the Garden Island’s North Shore.

A newly formed citizens’ nonprofit (militia) Kuhio Highway Regulation, is filling the education and enforcement gaps it perceives about state and county efforts falling short on a touted plan to reduce impacts around Haena State Park. Access to Haena involves a new reservation and parking process since the area reopened in mid-June, after being mostly closed to the general public since April 2018’s flood-related damage and repairs.

The new reservation-voucher system aims to cut visits to 900 people daily from a pre-flood estimate of 3,000 visitors. But Kuhio Highway Regulation volunteers say that since reopening under the new system, operations on the roughly last two miles of highway, leading into Haena State Park, have been crowded and confused.

Also sure to underscore that this is a new era for Kauai North Shore visitation: a new state law raising illegal parking fees in special no-parking zones, such as the area’s Kuhio Highway, from $35 to a whopping $235…. 

read … Controlling Haena visitors on Kuhio Highway

City plans to blanket Oahu parks with surveillance cameras

SA: … Oneula is included in the list of 13 parks where the city and Hawaii Tourism Authority will spend nearly $250,000 to install 192 security cameras by the start of next year. Multiple cameras also are slated to be placed in various location inside Foster Botanical Garden, Kuhio Beach Park, Ala Moana Regional Park, Kapiolani Regional Park, Hauula Beach Park, Waimanalo Bay Beach Park, Makapuu Beach Park, Makaha Beach Park, Kalama Beach Park, Patsy T. Mink Central Oahu Regional Park and Waipio Soccer.

Scenic Oneula and nearby Ewa Beach development have brought more tourists. The neighborhood, however, is dealing with rising crime and the growing pains of gentrification in an area where homeless campers previously were tolerated.

Oneula has seen a relatively high level of crime, said Nathan Serota, a spokesman for the city Department of Parks and Recreation. Its comfort station and other facilities have been repeatedly vandalized, and recently there was a stabbing at the park.

Expanding the use of cameras in partnership with HTA is an extension of efforts to increase safety at city park facilities, Serota said. The city over the last five years has added dozens of surveillance cameras to deter illegal activity in a handful of parks, including Aala, Ala Moana, Sandy Beach, Kiaka Bay and Waialae, he said….

Honolulu Police Department spokeswoman Michelle Yu said cameras are useful because they can capture footage of criminal acts, suspects and suspect vehicles.

Serota said cameras work. In fact, they’ve helped the city realize a 16% savings on in-house maintenance costs to address vandalism, which dipped from $234,000 in fiscal year 2018 to $196,500 in fiscal year 2019, he said….

read … Only 16%

Crash victim frustrated at how prosecutors are handling the case: ‘It just makes me question the system’

KHON: … In January 2018 she was riding her bicycle with other triathletes on Tantalus Drive when the driver of a car that was drift racing ran her over.

Taylor Liang pleaded no contest to Negligent Injury in the first degree, and was scheduled for sentencing Thursday. Altman and about 30 supporters showed up in court but they were told the hearing has been postponed.

“We were thinking we’re gonna have some type of closure and now the date we were given is October and it’s July and we were also not given a reason as to why,” said Altman.

She says the victim’s advocate was trying all week to get a hold of the prosecutor’s office but no one ever told them that the hearing would not happen. She says the whole process has been delayed numerous times.

“It just makes me question the system because there’s been so many, okay we’re gonna do this this day, oh just kidding we’re gonna move it to this day, oh just kidding we’re gonna move it again,” said Altman….

read … Crash victim frustrated at how prosecutors are handling the case: ‘It just makes me question the system’

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