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Sunday, March 29, 2015
March 29, 2015 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:10 PM :: 7903 Views

No Junior, You Can't Borrow the Car… I Sold It Last Century

Billy Kenoi Caught Partying at Hostess Bar 'Brothel' on Taxpayers' Dime

HTH: Despite strict rules against using county-issued credit cards for personal purposes, and a prohibition against purchasing alcohol with them, Mayor Billy Kenoi charged $892 on his county card at a Honolulu hostess bar one December day in 2013....

Kenoi said he’s used the county card for personal purchases on other occasions, but he’s always reimbursed the county. It’s not known how often this occurs, because repeated attempts by West Hawaii Today to get copies of the credit card statements have been turned back by the county.  (He admits doing this more than once.)

The newspaper has, since 2010, regularly requested Kenoi’s county purchasing card statements as a way to monitor the mayor’s travel and spending on the taxpayer dime. County Finance Department officials, however, have in the past refused to provide the actual statements, instead compiling a summary of charges incurred by the mayor and other top officials.  (They've been covering it up for 5 years.)

An April 21, 2014, clarification from the newspaper that renewed the request under Hawaii’s open records laws for the actual statements has yet to be fulfilled. The newspaper obtained the December 2013 statement from a different source.

The records request was renewed again March 18. The county, under the state Uniform Information Practices Act, has 10 business days from that date to respond to the request.

The hostess bar charge came on the same day he charged $215.10 for a round-trip Hilo-Honolulu airplane ticket and a $62.93 rental car on his pCard. Kenoi said he was in Honolulu on county business.

The bar, known as Club Evergreen, is one of several Korean hostess bars in downtown Honolulu, where patrons buy drinks for themselves and for hostesses who sit and enjoy them with the customers. Open from 2 p.m. to 4 a.m., Club Evergreen has received a range of online reviews, from both male and female customers who enjoy a third-party sushi bar tucked into the corner, to others accusing the club of being a front for a brothel.

KITV: Kenoi paid hostess club bill with government card

read ... Busted

HCR181: Audit Rail Instead of Raising Taxes

SA: The proposal to call for a state audit of the Honolulu fixed-rail project is a no-brainer, or it should be.

Taxpayers should feel alarmed that, absent such a study, there would be insufficient scrutiny of Hawaii's largest-ever public works project and what it's costing.

That sense of alarm is especially justifiable now, with the controlling agency, the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, seeking an extension of the general excise tax surcharge that provides most of the revenue for the work....

On Wednesday the House Transportation Committee advanced House Concurrent Resolution 181 to a floor vote. Whichever legislative vehicle makes it across the finish line, the state auditor would be asked to study:

  • HART's financial and management policies, practices and processes associated with rail plans, design, bidding and construction.
  • Its financial plan and accounting and internal controls.
  • Spending on project contracts, including payments to contractors, subcontractors and consultants.
  • Factors contributing to the project's cost increases, including delays, change orders and bidding procedures.
  • Actions taken to mitigate cost increases.

This would not be the first state to tighten the reins on a transit project. Just to name one: In 2010 and again in 2012 the California state auditor harshly criticized the agency in charge of its high-speed rail project for weak oversight.

The disconcerting aspect of Honolulu's situation is that problems are mounting during what is the less challenging half of the project. As construction moves into population and business centers, the costs and complexities could rise exponentially.

read ... Rail Audit

Special Purpose Revenue Bonds: Big Island Junk Windfarm Developer Comes Back for More

IM: Two individuals formed SunStrong LLC last fall. The existence of the phrase “SunStrong LLC” has been confined to the DCCA Business Registration Division, the Legislature and Legislative newsletters.

The company has no projects, no proposals, no web site and little else. Technically they have an address. There is a room at the Executive Center where small companies can work at desks in cubby-holes. Sunstrong may have even less, they may use the address only as a drop-box.

This year SunStrong LLC wants $100,000,000.00 in Special Purpose Revenue Bonds (SPRBs). In past years the individual behind the SunStrong curtain has asked for tens of millions of dollars for other proposals.

On February 27, 2015 Sunstrong gave the following accounting of who they are and what they want to a legislative committee.

“SunStrong commenced discussions with the State of Hawaii Department of Hawaiian Home Lands for acreage to install a second solar farm. SunStrong is requesting that Bill 1042 be amended to a total amount not to exceed $100,000,000 that would assist SunStrong serve the general public by providing renewable electric energy and installing renewable energy projects in Hawaii.”

The quote may be read as implying that Sunstrong is associated with the first project or that they have entered serious talks with DHHL. If so, I can’t find it on the web.

(Sunstrong is organized by the same people who left ... the Kamaoa windfarm to rust.)

read ... More Special Purpose Revenue Bonds 

NextEra, HECO, Solar Contractors Battle to Brainwash Public

Finding a capable leader is tough -- just ask voters

Shapiro: » After his nomination of lobbyist Carleton Ching for state land director crash landed, Gov. David Ige bemoaned the difficulty of finding "committed, qualified leaders." Now he knows what voters feel like when we see the ballot....

» A City Council committee voted 5-0 to approve a rezoning for D.R. Horton-Schuler's Hoo­pili development after all five members disclosed potential conflicts of interest because of Schuler-related campaign donations and other relationships. City ethics dis­closures double as advertise­ments that you get what you pay for.

» State legislators berated the city for prematurely seeking a tax bailout for Oahu's over-budget rail project, but now seem poised to roll over and grant it. Cowboys have a term for such legislative leadership: all hat, no cattle.

» A bill in the Legislature would allow corporations to buy the right to put their names on public facilities. If companies could so decorate the legislators they buy with campaign donations, floor sessions would look like a NASCAR pit.

» Lawmakers grumbled that a new $2 million Capitol fire alarm system sets off false alarms and announces, "Please cease operations and leave the building." Considering the mischief our Legislature is usually up to, that's $2 million worth of excellent advice.

» Hawaii's low- and middle-income residents have the worst tax burden in the country, according to WalletHub. But we get such wonderful schools, roads and hospitals for our money.

read ... Finding a capable leader is tough

Councilman urges HART to televise rail transit meetings

SA: Ozawa introduced Resolution 15-80, which urges HART to broadcast its meetings....

Ozawa wants HART to use Olelo, the community access television network on Oahu. Olelo's programs are shown over Oceanic Time Warner Cable and the Internet.

Nearly all City Council meetings are broadcast live, while key meetings of the state Legislature are also broadcast on Olelo.

The city Neighborhood Commission, with an annual budget of under $1 million, also makes video recording available to the island's neighborhood boards. Of 33 neighborhood boards, 24 take advantage of the service and have their monthly meetings shown on Olelo on a delayed basis....

"The public has a right to hear the truth," said Ewa Neighborhood Board Chairman Kevin Rathbun, a rail supporter. "That's taxpayer money that's funding the project. There shouldn't be any clandestine things going on."

Evelyn Souza, chairwoman of the Makakilo/ Kapolei/Honokai Hale Neighborhood Board, said that HART leaders have spoken a lot about wanting to be transparent and should be embracing the idea of having their meetings broadcast.

"If the HART people say they have nothing to hide, then do it," Souza said....

read ... Transparent?

Hawaii could be last state to enact sex trafficking law

AP: Hawaii legislators will consider a bill that would ban sex trafficking and treat people who are forced into prostitution as victims instead of criminals.

Some law enforcement departments in Hawaii are against the proposal because it could change the way prosecutors catch pimps, which is often by coercing an accused prostitute to testify against a pimp by offering to drop the charges against the prostitute.

"It's a higher burden of proof, and it's going to be more difficult to work the cases," said Capt. Jason Kawabata of the Honolulu Police Department in the House Judiciary Committee on Friday. Kawabata's concerns were echoed by Honolulu's Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro, who said his department is already prosecuting pimps for promoting prostitution and has gone after 22 defendants in the last year.

The debate has split the state's top prosecutors, with those from Kauai and Hawaii Island supporting the proposal.

"Really what we're looking at is a fundamental shift in the way we approach these cases. And are we going to have this be a victim-centered model?" said Justin Kollar, prosecuting attorney for the County of Kauai. "Working with a victim and keeping them in custody as a hammer — there's debate as to how ethical it is."

The hope of not being prosecuted is not the only motivation for sex trafficking victims to testify against pimps, Kollar argued. They often also have a fear of physical harm or losing shelter, he said. "The prosecution part of it is comparatively small."

The bill also would enable prosecutors to use wiretapping, adding a tool to their arsenals....

The House Judiciary Committee plans to make a decision on the bill Tuesday afternoon....

read ... Hawaii lawmakers consider bill banning sex trafficking

Funding Cut for Helicopter Raids on Marijuana Grow-ops

SA: In fiscal 2010, the Hawaii National Guard Counterdrug Support Office had a $4.6 million budget, 45 personnel from the Army and Air Guard, substance abuse and prevention programs, and a RAID (Reconnaissance Air Intrastate Detachment) of OH-58 Kiowa helicopters specifically configured for counterdrug surveillance and night operations.

But in the arc of the war on drugs, the Hawaii National Guard is coming down hard from a former funding high.

A reordering of national priorities amid tighter defense budgets resulted in the elimination of RAID counterdrug helicopter support in 2013, and a steady drop in funding to an anticipated $796,744 this year, officials said....

read ... Keep the people doped up

Hawaii Democrats -- 20 years of Pretending to do Something for Filipino Veterans

SA: "We have waited for 20 long years and no visa has been issued,"said Caleda, who served as an intelligence officer of the U.S. Army's 11th Infantry Regiment, part of the Filipino Organized Guerrillas.

In an effort to (once again pretend to) address the matter, this month U.S. Sens. Mazie Hirono and Harry Reid, D-Nev., reintroduced legislation that aims to expedite the visa process for sons and daughters of Filipino World War II veterans.  (As with all of their other bills, this is intended to go nowhere.  Its purpose it to put on a show for Filipino voters.)

Co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz and two senators from Alaska and California, the Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act would exempt Filipino veterans' children, about 20,000 individuals, from a cap on immigrant visas. Because of annual limits on how many green cards are issued, the wait for an adult child's visa can continue for decades. Petitions that Caleda and his wife filed on behalf of their sons in 1995 have yet to be processed.

As a former president of Fil-Am WWII Veterans of Hawaii, Caleda has participated in rallies in Washington, D.C., and attended hearings for similar bills introduced by Democratic lawmakers. All of the past bills have failed to move through Congress.

Caleda recalled fellow veteran Rizal Agbayani, whom he said died from exhaustion shortly after returning to Hawaii from a five-day rally in Washington, D.C., in 1997.... (Yes.  Democrats were pretending to do something about this in 1997--18 years ago.)

Caleda and his wife, Luz, moved to Royal Kunia in 1992. At age 91, he worries that the green card applications filed on behalf of his sons will die with him.... (Yes.  Democrats were pretending to do something about this in 1992--23 years ago.)

His gaze fell to a portrait of his late wife situated next to a fresh flower bouquet and a dozen birthday cupcakes. Luz Caleda, who died last spring, would have turned 85 this month...."My eldest is going to be 61 years old, the next is 58 and the other one is 54 -- there's no justice on the matter,"he said.

The Philippines is second only to Mexico in the length of its waiting list for family-sponsored visas with a queue of 399,061 applicants as of November, according to an annual report compiled by the National Visa Center. The worldwide queue stands at 4,331,750 applicants.

Earlier this year, U.S. Rep. Mark Takai introduced a bill -- his first as congressman -- identical to Hirono's. While grateful for the support shown to the Filipino veterans, Caleda is anxious about the proposal's chances of succeeding.

"Are we moving forward, backward, sideward or upward?" Caleda asked. "Time is of the essence."

read ... Played for votes for decades without delivering

Hanalei: "Nobody Wanted to Live There"

KGI: Longtime resident Steve Lindsey remembers when nobody wanted to live there. He built his home close to Hanalei Beach Park before the North Shore town was built up over the decades to become a destination point on Kauai.

His house, he said, was one of only five others in his neighborhood.

“This was mostly swamp land and we didn’t have a grocery store — we had the general market over here at Ching Young store,” Lindsey recalled. “Princeville didn’t have the Foodland or any of that. We didn’t have a hardware store. To get gas, food and all of that stuff, you had to drive into town. I thought, ‘I finally found a place that’s isolated.’”

That’s not the case anymore.....

read ... Locus of Anti-GMO Activism

Hilo Ward Heeler George Yokoyama Writes Biography

Borreca: Now 89, Yokoyama is still going to work at the Hilo office of the Hawaii County Economic Opportunity Council, where for many years he served as executive director.

His book, "Memoir of a War on Poverty in Paradise" (available on Amazon), gives readers the flavor of old-time Hilo and Hawaii's special brand of politics while also serving as an excellent guide to making social service agencies work.

"George has been fighting the war on poverty relentlessly for five decades. He is a believer in the ‘maximum feasible participation of the poor' in the programs that affect their lives," said Charles Freedman, who worked as Yokoyama's assistant for seven years in Hilo.

Yokoyama had a way with picking winning candidates and tripped up only when he supported former U.S. Rep. Ed Case is his run for governor in 2002, and then former Gov. Neil Abercrombie's re-election in 2014.

If Yokoyama sees politics as a game, he has been a master player, but he acknowledged that "politics is a means to an end."

read ... Hilo Ward Heeler George Yokoyama Writes Biography

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