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Tuesday, April 4, 2017
April 4, 2017 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:49 PM :: 3740 Views

Caldwell Appoints Banker to be Deputy Director of Budget and Fiscal Services

Hawaii Cannabis Tracking System Designed By Feds, Silicon Valley Billionaires

Green Energy Schemers: Hawaii success story because of the high price of electricity, state tax credits

More Rate Hikes Coming: Green Energy Forcing Shutdown of State’s Cheapest Energy Source

SA: AES does not have a timeline for when the facility will discontinue its use of coal….

Despite federal actions, Hawaii has to end its use of coal before 2045. That’s when the state will require that 100 percent of its electrical utilities’ sales comes from renewable energy resources.

Currently, the AES coal facility supplies 20 percent of Oahu’s energy. AES, which is one of eight independent power producers that sell energy to Hawaiian Electric Co., is the cheapest source of power on the island. AES gets its coal from a mine in Indonesia.

The plant has roughly five years to find a new fuel source.

AES’ contract with Hawaiian Electric Co. expires Sept. 1, 2022, when the utility is required to be well on its way to adopting its 2030 benchmark to have 65 percent of electricity coming from renewable energy resources. HECO has said its contract with the coal plant will not be renewed because of the utility’s need to reach its clean-energy goals…..

“Our ability to integrate more renewable generation onto the grid in coming dec­ades is improved without a large, inflexible single generator such as AES,” according to HECO’s power supply plans submitted to the state Public Utilities Commission in December.

Shannon Tangonan, spokeswoman for HECO, said Friday the utility would be willing to look at a contract with AES if it used biomass.

“We would be willing to look at biofuel or biomass generation as long as it benefits our customers and helps our state achieve its renewable-energy goals,” she said.

read … Isle plant to quit coal despite Trump order

Homeless Nonprofit’s ex-leader jailed for embezzlement

SA: The former executive director of a nonprofit organization that shelters and helps homeless people in Leeward Oahu find permanent housing is going to jail for a year for stealing more than a half-million dollars from the organization.

A state judge sentenced Sophina Placencia to four years of probation Monday, one year of which she must serve behind bars, on five counts of theft for stealing $554,541 from Waianae Community Outreach. The thefts occurred between 2007 and 2013. Placencia, 35, pleaded no contest to the charges in April 2016. She has until May 15 to turn herself in to begin serving her jail term.

Circuit Judge Dean Ochiai also ordered Placencia to repay the state Department of Human Services the $554,541 she stole. The organization had and continues to receive approximately $1 million per year in funding from the state.

The organization changed its name in 2014 to Kealahou West Oahu.

Kealahou West Oahu sued Placencia in 2015, saying she made approximately $292,000 in unauthorized purchases using the organization’s debit card on travel, entertainment, meals and recreation. The lawsuit also claims that Placencia used the debit card to pay for the installation of an above-ground pool at her mother’s house, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and jewelry for her girlfriend, and veterinary bills and dog supplies.

A state judge found in favor of Kealahou last year in the Placencia lawsuit.

The criminal case involving Waianae Community Outreach started in 2010, when Placencia reported to Honolulu police that a former employee, Laura Pitolo, had stolen from the organization. She provided police with 36 canceled checks that she said Pitolo had written to herself and others without authorization.

The case was never forwarded for prosecution. In 2013, after the statute of limitations had or was about to expire, the lawyer for the organization contacted police who said the detective assigned to the case was never able to locate and interview Pitolo or any of the others who cashed the checks. Police also said that Placencia had failed to turn over other records that the detective had requested.

The state DHS took over the investigation, then turned it over to the state Department of the Attorney General, which secured indictments and charges against Placencia, Pitolo and another former employee, Jamye Windsor, in 2015.

Two other judges dismissed the criminal cases against Pitolo and Windsor because the charges against them were filed more than three years after the crimes were allegedly committed or discovered.

The statute of limitations against Placencia had not yet expired when an Oahu grand jury returned an indictment against her in March 2015 because her crimes were not discovered until 2013, when the DHS started its investigation.

Kealahou also sued Pitolo and Windsor. Those suits are pending.

read … Nonprofit’s ex-leader jailed for embezzlement

SB249: Gil Keith Agaran Continues Undeclared War on Judges After DHHL Funding Ordered

ILind: The House Finance Committee will hold a public hearing at 2 p.m. today (April 4) on SB 249, somewhat innocuously titled, “Relating to Retirement.”

The bill would cut the pension benefits of future judges by one-third, while leaving the retirements of other key public employees and officials—police officers, fire fighters, and elected officials, including of course legislators themselves—unscathed.

It’s the latest move in a series of attempts by certain legislative leaders to single out state judges for punishment, apparently for unstated political transgressions….

The worst thing about this and other bills that have attacked the judiciary over the past two sessions is that none of the bills’ sponsors have taken responsibility and explained what problem they have been intended to fix, or what court decisions raised their ire.

The sponsors have been silent. No justifications have been offered. No problems identified. Just silent, sullen pressure to move the bills forward.

SB 249 was introduced by Senators Gil Keith-Agaran, Lorraine Inouye, Donovan Dela Cruz, and Donna Mercado Kim. The House companion, which died earlier, was introduced by Speaker Joe Souki, “by request.”

The whole episode is giving the legislature a black eye. Seeking to pass legislation for reasons no one is willing to articulate and, as a result, remain secret, is unbecoming our Democratic majority. The public has a keen interest in maintaining an independent judiciary, and Democratic lawmakers should be called to account for their actions.

read … Bill targeting pensions of judges should be killed

Ige Misses Deadline on UH Regents Nomination

HTH: …Gov. David Ige made the 4:30 p.m. Friday deadline to submit nominations for three seats on the University of Hawaii Board of Regents to the state Senate for confirmation.

The only seat he missed is the one that’s vacant. The other three become vacant July 1….

At least two of the candidates, who asked that their names not be used, said they hadn’t been contacted as of Monday….

read … Big Isle senators criticize Ige for lack of action on regent nomination

Kauai utility considers exit from state regulatory rule

PBN: Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, the smaller of the two electric utilities serving Hawaii customers, is considering a move out from under the authority of the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission.

The Lihue-based utility said in its Strategic Plan Update 2016-2030 that it has begun to consider this move to a deregulated or minimally regulated status, which would allow it “greater flexibility in responding to member concerns and unexpected changes in fuel prices and market conditions.” …

KIUC, which has been making tremendous progress in lowering bills and integrating massive amounts of renewable energy into its grid, is achieving 37 percent renewable energy in 2016 from just 6 percent clean energy in 2007. Its current goal is generating at least 70 percent of its power from renewable resources by 2030, which would put it 10 years ahead of state mandates.

The utility has also assisted efforts on other islands to create member-owned electric cooperatives, starting with the Big Island, according to its strategic plan. KIUC also has concluded that liquefied natural gas is not a fuel alternative that will be embraced in Hawaii in the near term, and that it is now looking at expanding the use of propane or renewable-based fuels.

NR: New Directors Installed for KIUC

read … Kauai utility considers exit from state regulatory rule

Want $1M?  Can You Pretend to be a Tech Entrepreneur?

PBN: The High Technology Development Corporation, or the “Hawaii” Technology Development Corporation, as it may soon be called, after a bill calling for the name change just passed the House Committee on Finance last Friday, was established in 1983 to facilitate development and growth of Hawaii’s commercial technology industry.

(It is an abject failure.)

During a recent technology roundtable discussion, hosted by Pacific Business News, Melton said the state is one of only two that (is dumb enough to) offer a matching grant program for businesses that receive Small Business Innovation and Research grants.

“People come to Hawaii and build their companies here in order to take advantage of that,” she said….

The HTDC manages the Hawaii SBIR grants, which provide Phase I funding of up to $150,000 and Phase II funding of up to $1 million to small businesses to develop new technologies and innovations.

The HTDC’s SBIR matching grant program allows small research companies to receive Phase I funding of up to 50 percent of the federal Phase I award, up to $500,000 for Phase II and an additional $500,000 for Phase III.

The program also offers a Phase 0 grant of up to $3,000 to assist first time Phase I applicants with grant writing services.

According to the results of the 2016 HTDC Client Annual Economic Survey, the 37 companies receiving SBIR funds in Hawaii had a total economic impact of $89.5 million.

According to the survey, the estimated total revenue of the companies was $33.9 million with the grants, resulting in $5.9 million in state taxes.

Reality: Auditor: DoTax allows $2B in Tax Credits Without Checking

read … Hawaii on leading edge of states which offer matching grant programs, says HTDC's Robbie Melton

HB488: $150M for Affordable Housing?

CB: When the session began in January, lawmakers had numerous proposals to increase funding for the Rental Housing Revolving Fund, a key mechanism for subsidizing rental housing. Several sought to allot more money to the fund from taxes on high-end real estate.

Senate Housing Committee Chairman Will Espero even introduced an ambitious bill to float $2 billion in general obligation bonds to better fund public housing, rental housing and homeless shelters.

But more than two months into the legislative session, those ideas have fallen by the wayside.

House Bill 488. The latest draft would issue $75 million in general obligation bonds for the Rental Housing Revolving Fund, and the same amount for the Dwelling Unit Revolving Fund.

The proposal would also float $75 million in general obligation bonds for public housing improvements and development.

But while the measure passed the House already and is waiting for a hearing in the Senate, Espero says that lawmakers will probably decide upon one funding amount for rental housing and public housing instead of approving the bond expenditures in HB 488.

read … Lawmakers Fail To Fund Hawaii’s Ambitious Housing Plans — Again

HB2: No Farms, Just Big and Tiny Houses

KE: …Big houses with zero connection to farming have been popping up all over Hawaii's agricultural lands in recent decades.

Now the state Legislature is working to exacerbate the problem by advancing a bill that would authorize "tiny houses" — mobile or stationary structures under 500 square feet — on ag land.

Though these "tiny houses" are being promoted as a way to "help" farmers by housing their workers, the potential for abuse is huge, especially given the inability and/or unwillingness of county governments to enforce the existing state law pertaining to farm dwellings.

Currently, the bill is written so that it would apply only to the Big Island, though it won't be long before Maui County meets the criteria of "a population of more than 180,000 but less than 250,000."

Neither the state Department of Agriculture nor the Hawaii County Planning Department support the bill, which would let anyone who pulls a business license build an unspecified number of tiny homes. Both entities submitted testimony in opposition, with Big Island Planning Director Michael Yee noting the "great potential" for "unintended abuse" of ag lands.

That's being diplomatic. The ag land abuse proposed here is very much intentional. Consider, for example, one of its proponents, as featured in a recent Civil Beat article:

Eila Algood is both a poet and a farmer. On her 34 acres of agricultural land in North Kohala, Algood plants trees to help reforestation efforts, and harvests eggs from her15 chickens to sell. Algood says she can’t afford to hire the farmhands necessary to expand her operation because paying employees a living wage in Kohala is not within her means.

Fifteen chickens and trees to help reforestation efforts? That's not farming by any stretch of the imagination. This bill is simply a ploy to put sub-standard rental housing on ag land, resulting in a proliferation of rural ghettoes and the continued erosion of the agricultural district….

read … Musings: No Farms, Just Big and Tiny Houses

Hundreds turned away after free rent program loses funds

HNN: An eviction prevention program whose funding wasn't renewed by the state has had to turn away 300 people in the last month alone.

Figures show the Coordinated Statewide Homeless Initiative helped eviction rates on Oahu drop a staggering 25 percent.

In less than a year, the program saved 1,529 households (or 4,729 people) from eviction.

Money for the program ran out about a month ago, but already the courts are seeing the repercussions.

"The number of evictions that get stopped because of charitable aid is basically down to nothing," said attorney David Chee.

Chee said what made the program successful is how quickly it could pay the landlord. Under Hawaii law, a tenant can be evicted in as little as 15 days.

"That was the only program that could work fast enough," said Chee.

A bill before lawmakers would save the program, but it's not currently scheduled for a hearing. It's up to state Sen, Jill Tokuda put it on the schedule and that has to happen in the next couple days.

read … Hundreds turned away after eviction prevention program loses funds

Organizations unite to move 30 homeless people into apartments by June

SA: It was move-in day Tuesday for five chronically homeless people who are part of a massive, all-hands-on-deck effort by the state, city and social service agencies to get 30 homeless people off the street and into Chinatown apartments by June….

Young is one of 30 homeless people at the center of an unprecedented effort to house people en masse who had been living homeless across Oahu for years. One, from the Windward side, has been homeless for 30 years. Another, from the downtown/Chinatown area, hasn’t had a permanent home in 20 years.

The focus on getting 30 homeless people housed in Pauahi Hale and Winston Hale is separate from the ongoing efforts by the city and state to place homeless people in market-rate rental units across Oahu, where they also will get social service help for problems like substance abuse and mental illness.

But the overall goal is the same.

“We’re getting the people with the highest needs off of the streets and putting them in a stable place where they can get better and not return to homelessness,” said Scott Morishige, the state’s homeless coordinator. “We know that when you pair people with severe mental health and substance abuse issues with housing, their condition improves dramatically.”

The larger effort to get 30 people off the street and into Winston Hale and Pauahi Hale began Dec. 21 when Jodi Jennette agreed to leave her encampment on Diamond Head for an apartment in Pauahi Hale.

It’ll continue through May, when the last of 30 chronically homeless people is expected to be housed.

read … Organizations unite to move 30 homeless people into apartments by June

Homeless Addicts Trash Maui Canoe Club

MN: …Maui County’s Ho’aloha Park is home to hundreds of Hawaiian and Na Kai ‘Ewalu canoe club paddlers, but in recent months it’s been a hot spot for trouble with homeless people and vagrants.

Some defecate and urinate in bushes and elsewhere in the park, club members say. There have been reports of at least one knife fight, vandalism, thefts and littering, including discarded hypodermic needles.

“I’ve never seen it this bad in the 40 years that I’ve been paddling out here,” said longtime Hawaiian Canoe Club coach Paul Lu’uwai.

Vagrancy has long been a problem in the 2-acre park abutting Kahului Harbor and across Kaahumanu Avenue from the Kahului Shopping Center, club members said.

This most recent influx of homeless people at Ho’aloha Park came in the wake of law enforcement officers clearing encampments at the Kahului Harbor breakwater and Kanaha Beach Park, they said.

For two or three months (near the end or shortly after the Maui Interscholastic League paddling season), the homeless numbers reached a daily peak of around 30 to 40 individuals at the park, according to Lu’uwai….

Someone grabbed the mast of a sailboat and broke it into pieces. There was a knife fight, and someone dragged a one-man canoe out onto the road, he said.

there are a few who are “unruly” and “abrasive,” he said. And, “I think there’s drug activity.”….

Martin said that she has seen people exhibit “sometimes bizarre” behavior and others who are obviously either intoxicated or high on drugs.

Growing numbers of homeless people and vagrants have been congregating at the park, she said, and a few have grown “more brazen, more bold.”

Gathering in larger groups of individuals appears to embolden them, Martin said, and when that’s compounded by alcohol consumption “we have a bad mix.”

Na Kai ‘Ewalu head coach Owen Seiki said that the homeless problem has become a “big nuisance.”

There was a knife fight among homeless people a week or two ago, Seiki said. And, more than once, a coach reported catching a couple in the act of sexual intercourse — at least once at midday shortly before young paddlers were scheduled to show up for practice.

“Our members feel unsafe, especially female paddlers. . . . They don’t want to be there alone. Parents are concerned about their kids,” Seiki said.

Lu’uwai commends Maui Police Department officers for responding to frequent, if not daily, calls for help from canoe club members seeking help in coping with homeless people.

“We call them so much,” he said. But “we don’t know what to do. We can’t take the law into our own hands.”

Officers have gone “beyond the call of duty,” he said.

Lu’uwai said that what he finds most repugnant is finding human feces, and he’s asked the county to return a port-a-potty that had been on the park property.

“They’re using the bathroom all over the place,” he said.

read … Refuse to accept shelter

Honolulu Police Chief Applications Are Rolling In

CB: Sword said that so far, the total number of applicants is more than 10, but a final tally won’t be announced until the commission meets Wednesday.

“We’re in the double-digits in terms of applications,” Sword said. “I don’t know who they are and I have not looked at any of the applications.”

CB: Media Training For Honolulu Cops A Waste of Money

read … Rolling In

Lawsuit: Police Officers, Union Tried To Cover Up Bar Shooting

CB: Park filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Hawaii last week against HPD alleging the department should have known Kimura had a drinking problem and a history of depression. The lawsuit states it was “entirely foreseeable” that Kimura presented a danger to the public, and that he should not have been carrying a weapon.

Even more troubling are the allegations of a concerted effort by HPD officials to cover up the shooting along with the help of the police union.

Park’s attorney, Eric Seitz, said Kimura was drinking with two other police officers, Sterling Naki and Joshua Omoso, the night his client was shot.

After the shooting, Seitz said, several members of HPD and the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers showed up on the scene while Naki and Omoso were allowed to leave. Seitz said it appeared that the sole purpose was to protect Kimura.

Seitz also alleged that none of the officers at the scene called 911 or sent for an ambulance.

“They did nothing to help the woman who was shot,” Seitz said in an interview. “They were more concerned about protecting their friend.” ….

PDF: Complaint

read … Lawsuit: Police Officers, Union Tried To Cover Up Bar Shooting

Former HPD officer convicted for stealing drugs, guns in Kentucky – Gets 12 Years

HNN: A former Honolulu police officer will spend twelve years in prison for stealing guns, drugs and cash from a police department in Kentucky.

Officer Terry Putnam, 55,  was assigned to HPD's District 1 (Central Honolulu) in the 1990's before leaving the department on his own for a job on the mainland, sources tell Hawaii News Now.

He was an employee of the Simpsonville Police Department in Kentucky when he was arrested in January of 2016 on charges ranging from theft and criminal mischief to tampering with official police evidence.

Putnam pleaded guilty in January to theft of a controlled substance, burglary and criminal mischief…..

read … Another One

Tupola vs Ostrov for Hawaii GOP Chair

HNN: …It's rare, however, for a sitting politician to also serve as party chair, the seat which Tupola is seeking.

"Our party has never been candidate centric," said Rep. Tupola. "My vision is to build a candidate centric party where we build a mentorship for these candidates. We are helping them and making sure they have enough funding."

While registered Republicans in Hawaii grew by more than 30 percent during the 2016 campaign year, the party lost its lone state senator during the election that saw Donald Trump elected president.

The state house, meanwhile, has only five Republican members.

Shirlene Ostrov, a businesswoman who ran unsuccessfully against Colleen Hanabusa for U.S. Congress, is also running for the leadearship position. Ostrov says Tupola already has her hands full, and that the chair of the GOP -- which is a volunteer position -- needs to make a full-time commitment toward building the party.

"It's a reasonable expectation to have a full-time party chairman, to focus on the issues, to build up our party," said Ostrov. "To not only support our caucus, but to support candidates and attract future candidates."

Tupola says she can effectively do both jobs….

"I feel that as a legislator, we have really good insight on policy, as well as how to look for candidates and help them win," said Tupola.

Current GOP chair Fritz Rohlfing believes Tupola could do both jobs. He's called Tupola a 'rising star' because she's a proven winner….

read … Tupola's rare bid for GOP chair raises eyebrows

State GOP Must Open Doors To Change

CB: …there is hope. Recently, a young and vibrant woman, born and raised in Mililani and who has proved her mettle, is taking a stance and is running for the chairmanship of the party leadership.  She is retired Air Force Colonel Shirlene Dela Cruz Ostrov. Yet she faces the good old boy network whose center is self preservation. This policy is proving to be self-destructive. Just count the number of Republicans in the state house and senate.

It is my sincere hope that in the coming election for the party’s chairmanship, games are not played and those who have held the power in the party recognize the need for change. I would ask them to step aside and allow a fresh breeze to blow through the party and revitalize it. If they don’t, they just might be out of a job by default….

read … State GOP Must Open Doors To Change

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