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Saturday, January 18, 2020
January 18, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:09 PM :: 3590 Views

Ige's philosophy: Spend, spend, spend

Hawaii GE Tax Hits 105.29% of Personal Income

2020 Legislature: Gun Bills Introduced

10 Hawaii Robotics teams qualify for 2020 VEX Worlds

HECO Reports 21% jump in solar generation capacity

Young Brothers Rate Hike Proposal Based on Fraudulent Numbers

TGI: …  The shipping company Young Brothers is trying to raise rates for the second time in two years, and some farmers fear the proposed 34% increase will devastate agriculture and livestock businesses.

John Gordines, president of the Kauai Farm Bureau, testified against the rate hike at a public hearing at the state building in Lihue Thursday evening, along with others whose businesses and livelihoods depend on imported supplies and intrastate commerce….

In January 2019, the commission approved a 4.3% rate increase, but that figure was less than a third of the 13.3% Young Brothers originally asked for in December 2017.

The shipping company was forced to accept a lower rate after the Consumer Advocacy Division of the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs found discrepancies in the figures used to justify the proposed price hike, according to documents filed online with the Public Utilities Commission.

The consumer advocate then launched an investigation of Young Brothers, and found that its application for a rate increase was based on figures that made it appear as though the company was in a worse financial position than it was.

According to the agreement, the company reached with the consumer advocate for the 2019 rate increase, Young Brothers representatives underestimated potential earnings and overestimated costs by millions of dollars….

PUC: YB 2017 Rate Hike Docket

CA: NOTICE OF PUBLIC MEETING KAUAI – YOUNG BROTHERS, LLC RATE CASE, DOCKET NO. 2019-0117

read … Shipping company seeks rate hike

Salary Increases Drive $14B ERS Pension Shortfall

SA: … Hawaii’s largest public pension fund is now underfunded by a record $14.08 billion, and the shortfall is expected to increase until fiscal year 2025 before reversing course.

It will take 26 years, or until June 30, 2045, before the $17.2 billion pension portfolio that currently serves 125,589 Employees’ Retirement System beneficiaries is 100% funded, according to the fiscal 2019 actuary report from Gabriel Roeder Smith that was accepted earlier this week by ERS trustees. The pension fund’s shortfall at the end of fiscal 2018 was $13.41 billion….

“Our total unfunded liability was … impacted by modestly lower investment returns, higher than expected salary increases and changes in several underlying assumptions,” ERS Executive Director Thom Williams said….

“That is in spite of the plan’s average investment returns as of Dec. 31 exceeding the plan’s (7%) assumed return over each of the one-, three-, five-year and since-inception periods,” he said….

2019: Contract Reopeners: More Raises on Tap for Public Employee Unions

read … Hawaii’s largest public pension fund hits a record $14B shortfall

HSTA’s Newest Raise Would Cost $46M

HSTA: … The Board of Education chair said Thursday that a long-overdue salary adjustment for thousands of veteran Hawaii educators has a “very high priority” as the Department of Education revealed the roughly $46 million cost which state lawmakers need to approve to make those raises happen…. 

Clue: No mention of the additional pension cost….

Another Clue: No Mention of any Teacher Accountability for Failing Schools...

Kishimoto: Why are we doing this now? In my message to school leaders at the start of this school year, I told them this is the year to disrupt. 

HSTA: DOE asks lawmakers to fund salary adjustments

read … HSTA Agit-Prop

Sen Taniguchi Blocks Bill Mandating Pension forfeiture after felony

KHON: … Pending legislation as written wouldn’t take Kealoha’s retirement money nor the benefits of anyone convicted prior to enactment, but it would make it clear going forward that if you break the law on the job on the public dime, you’d forfeit your retirement dollars.

Louis Kealoha currently gets a pension as a Honolulu Police Department retiree, estimated to be around $150,000 a year, in addition to benefits.

“It looks especially bad when it’s someone in that position of authority because presumably they’re getting paid pretty well,” said Sen. Karl Rhoads, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Dozens of other U.S. states block pensions of public workers if they get convicted of serious crimes connected to their jobs. Hawaii lawmakers have talked about it on and off, even back to when Honolulu City Councilmember Andy Mirikitani was convicted nearly two decades ago.

The House last spring passed bill HB1264, which would rescind pensions for felonies on state or county time or using public property; bribery; embezzlement of taxpayer money; or committed against an employee they oversee

No one in the House voted against it, but when it crossed over to the Senate it stalled in the Labor Committee….

“Normally we don’t do bills from the year before,” said Sen. Brian Taniguchi, chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, Culture and the Arts. “I need to talk to my leadership. Normally somebody reintroduces the bills for the current session and those bills go through the process again.”…

read … Pension forfeitures after felonies awaits Senate action

Drunk Hit-and-Run Former State Senator Actually Gets Arrested for DUI (this time)

SA: … Former state Sen. Jon Yoshimura was charged Thursday with driving under the influence of an intoxicant, a petty misdemeanor.

Police arrested the 60-year-old at 1:10 a.m. Thursday at or near 762 Kapiolani Blvd., the location of Yanagi Sushi….

Gov. David Ige appointed Yoshimura in 2018 to the Senate to represent District 19 and serve the remainder of Sen. Will Espero’s term. Espero ran for lieutenant governor in 2018 and lost the Democratic primary to Sen. Josh Green.

Yoshimura was a former Honolulu city councilman and council chairman, a reporter at KHON2-TV, communications director for Sen. Daniel Akaka and worked at Tesla and SolarCity Hawaii.

In 2001, Yoshimura admitted at a news conference he lied about a 1999 accident, and that he had been drinking before hitting a parked car and fleeing the scene. The news conference was held just before announcing his plans to run for lieutenant governor in 2002….

ILind: Anonymous allegation of illegal lobbying, fundraising

2018: Ige Appoints Jon Yoshimura to Espero's Senate Seat

2002: Yoshimura Law License Suspended for 6 months for lying about accident

read … Recidivist

Will Judiciary Block Affordable Housing Plan?

SA Editorial: … Hawaii has a serious problem supplying its population with affordable housing, and the ever-present NIMBY factor is complicating things even further.

Witness the legal scuffle over Hale Makana O Maili, a two-story apartment project planned on a 2.8-acre parcel on Kulaaupuni Street in Maili, mauka of Farrington Highway. The complex would back up to three cul-de-sacs, adjacent to single-family homes.

And residents of those homes are suing to stop it….

The plaintiffs assert in the complaint that neighbors did not get adequate notice and that environmental review was faulty, and they noted an error in the Council resolution approving the exemption.

Advocates say the case is weak, but whether or not the suit gets dismissed, it may signal potential problems ahead for the state’s ambitious proposals for an affordable-housing construction campaign. If even a small, low-rise project such as this draws fire, what kind of battles will the state have to fight to build the 17,000 units it envisions?…

read … Can’t afford NIMBYism

Ige pledged to end homelessness in Hawaii by 2020. What happened?

HNN: … Four years ago, Gov. David Ige made a big pledge: His administration would functionally end homelessness in Hawaii by 2020. Anyone who ended up on the street, he said, would be helped and housed within a few weeks.

Since then, the state has spent at least $44 million trying to get a handle on the crisis.

While some progress has been made, many sidewalks, parks and beaches remain crowded with tents….

There were three main objectives to the governor’s plan:

Eliminate encampments on state land;

Get everyone off the street and into housing;

And build 10,000 new homes, with a focus on affordable units.

Likely, just one of those goals ― adding 10,000 new units ― will be met….

“I do think in hindsight maybe it was too aggressive, too aspirational,” Ige said, in an interview with Hawaii News Now. “But it did drive us. It made us realize in order to be successful we need to have all hands on deck.”…

read … Ige pledged to end homelessness in Hawaii by 2020. What happened?

Bum fights at Hawaii state library leave library patrons injured, damage building

KHON: …With escalating (homeless)  incidents, some of them violent, in and around our public libraries.

Now lawmakers are asked to put up an extra $1 million to keep library users and staff safe.

It’s part of a funding request from the state library system which says fights at the Hawaii state library have left library patrons injured, and also caused damage to the building.

Officials say the physical presence of well-trained and prepared security is needed to ensure our community facilities continue to be safe places of learning….

KHON: City introduces resolution for more park rangers in city parks

read … Library requests $1 million for security measures

Jail Diversion Plan Diverts One Criminal

WHT: … Jacobs waived his right to a speedy trial and appeared in court once a month for status hearings, complying with program requirements.

“I am so proud of you and happy for you,” Masunaga said at the graduation.

Jacobs said he recalled spending three or more nights in the Kona Police Station cellblock when case manager Gail Werner came to see him and explained the Jail Diversion Program.

After being accepted into the program Jacobs attended the Kona Paradise Club, a member-driven psychosocial rehabilitation program for adults who experience the challenges of mental illness, five days a week.

He said he felt a great sense of relief having all of his charges dropped and is looking forward to the next chapter of his life.

“I would like to find work in the future,” he said. “Maybe go back to school.”

Even Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald sent a message to the graduate.

“Congratulations Sean Jacobs as the first participant in 2020 to complete the jail Diversion program,” he said. “Mahalo nui loa to Kori Weinberger, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, Ann Datta, Kona Supervising Public Defender, Gail Warner, Case Manager/Jail Diversion, West Hawaii Community Mental Health Center, Dr. Hawken Shields, Department of Health, Jill Akuna and Judge Margaret Masunaga who made this program a success on Hawaii Island.”…

MN: Group restores hope for former offenders

read … One Diversion

Lack of information in Hawaii inmate’s death is questioned

SA: … The case in question involves Oahu Community Correctional Center inmate Jacob Russell, 56. Family members provided his name to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser after the state Attorney General’s Office refused to release his name or almost any other information about the events surrounding his death.

One family member said Russell had a long history of mental illness, and Russell’s family was told by authorities he was repeatedly kicked in the head during an attack at OCCC. Court documents show Russell went into a coma after the Nov. 19 assault, and a prison report said he died on Christmas morning.

Russell’s death, which police classified as a homicide, came to light only earlier this month after the clerk of the House of Representatives released the first dozen reports on inmate deaths that are required under Act 234. Russell was not identified by name in the report, which was released to the Star-Advertiser on Jan. 2….

A spokesman for Attorney General Clare Connors has said much of the information called for in the new law is being withheld because the Department of Public Safety is subject to the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA, which imposes safeguards to protect patients’ private health care information….

read … Lack of information in Hawaii inmate’s death is questioned

Wiping out Hawaiian History: Caldwell administration again pushes to rename Thomas Square

ILind: … The agenda for the January 21 meeting of the Honolulu City Council’s Parks Community Services and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee again includes consideration of Resolution 19-178, which would rename Thomas Square.

The resolution was introduced “By request,” and in this case it seems quite clear that it came from the Caldwell administration.

Earlier testimony by the Historic Hawaii Foundation provides a summary of the park’s history.

King Kameharneha III gifted this parcel of land to the people of Hawai’i on July 31, 1843 in commemoration of the restoration of the Hawaiian Kingdom that took place after its unlawful usurpation by a subject of Great Britain. It was on the occasion of the restoration that Kamehameha III was moved to say, “Ua mau ka ‘ea o ka ‘aina i ka pono”—the life of the land is restored in righteousness—which has since become the official motto of the State of Hawai’i.

Kamehameha III officially named the site of the restoration “Thomas Square” after Rear Admiral Richard Thomas for his role in restoring the sovereignty of the Hawaiian Kingdom. The king dedicated Thomas Square as a public park, known as the first in Hawaii.

Although the Caldwell administration says it wants to honor Kamehameha III by renaming the park, it should be obvious that rejecting the king’s explicit decision is no such honor.

“This proposed renaming would in fact result in the opposite of hononng the King and should not be pursued,” Historic Hawaii testified. I can’t help agreeing with that sentiment.

Perhaps there is some well-meaning intention behind the renaming proposal. However, the record does not show any testimony in favor of the renaming, nor any reasonable argument for “honoring” the king by rejecting his personal choice of the “Thomas Square” name.

The administration already destroyed the British Union Jack design of walkways in Thomas Square during its “renovation” of the park, although its own master plan had stressed the importance of retaining the historic design.

Isn’t enough enough?

Testimony on Resolution 19-178 can easily be submitted online.

read … Caldwell administration again pushes to rename Thomas Square

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