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Friday, April 20, 2018
April 20, 2018 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 8:03 PM :: 5010 Views

Hawaii Legislature wants to vacuum up your tax savings

Bunch of Zeroes: Conservative Rankings of Hawaii Congressional Delegation

Boom Over? Hawaii Construction Employment Drops

Former Maui Police Officer Pleads Guilty to Theft Under Color of Law and Witness Tampering

DoE: Social Studies Standards open for public review through April

Audit: Top Criminal Investigators Looking into Rail Finances

SA: … As work gets underway on a far-reaching audit of the multibillion-dollar rail project, state Auditor Les Kondo warned officials that his office has already identified potential red flags.

Legislation passed last year allowing the use of additional tax revenue to bail out the more than $9 billion project gave the state increased oversight of the city project.

The law, known as Act 1, authorized an estimated $2.4 billion funding package by extending Oahu’s 0.5 percent general excise tax surcharge an additional three years to 2030 and increasing the state’s hotel room tax by 1 percentage point for the next 13 years.

As part of the deal, the city is now required to pay rail project vendors upfront and submit requests for reimbursements from the excise tax surcharge and increased hotel tax revenues to the state comptroller. It tasks Kondo with performing an annual review of those reimbursements and completing a comprehensive audit of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation by the end of the year.

At a HART board meeting Thursday, Kondo said there appears to be disagreement over what types of expenses are reimbursable to HART under the law.

The law says the earmarked revenues can be used only for capital or construction costs. It prohibits spending on “administrative, operating, marketing or maintenance costs, including personnel costs.”

“At this point in time, I’m not really confident that we, my office, is on the same page as HART and DAGS (the state Department of Accounting and General Services) as to what costs are reimbursable,” Kondo said….

Meanwhile, Kondo said work has started on the comprehensive audit, which lawmakers provided $1 million for his office to complete. Kondo, who noted that his office has subpoena powers, told rail officials he expects HART’s full and timely cooperation.

Under the law, the audit’s scope includes HART’s financial plan; fiscal and management policies associated with the plans, design, bidding and construction of rail; all contracts awarded for the project, including payments to contractors, subcontractors and consultants; change orders; and expenditures for personnel costs, lease rent and other operations and management costs.

The overall purpose of the audit, according to Act 1, is “to determine whether funds received by HART … are being managed and used in a reasonable manner.”

Although the audit is not forensic in nature, Kondo said his consultant team for the review includes Daniel Hanagami, chief special agent in charge of the investigations division of the Attorney General’s Office, and retired Circuit Judge Randal Lee. Both men have extensive experience with criminal investigations.

Hanagami, a former Honolulu Police Department major, was lead investigator of the criminal probe into personal purchases by former Hawaii island Mayor Billy Kenoi on a county- issued credit card. Before being appointed a state judge, Lee was a deputy prosecuting attorney for the city, overseeing white-collar crimes and public corruption cases….

read … Auditor disagrees with HART on rail reimbursements

How Will Honolulu Pay To Run Rail Once It’s Built? The City Still Doesn’t Know

CB: …Honolulu’s City Council leaders are struggling with how to cover millions of dollars in new rail construction costs so they can appease the Federal Transit Administration. They’ve proposed squeezing that money into next year’s city operations budget, which is already stretched thin.

But that challenge raises a bigger question — one that locals have asked for years. How does the city intend to pay for rail once the trains start running?

The city’s leaders still don’t know the answer….

Passenger fares will only cover a fraction of the cost, so the city will have to make up an annual shortfall of about $100 million once the full 20-mile, 21-station system opens.

Other transit systems around the country often rely on dedicated tax sources, such as a sales tax for transit, to cover those costs. Honolulu doesn’t have that.

Kobayashi and other longtime critics of the island’s elevated transit project say Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s administration has avoided the issue.

The current dilemma over how the city might pay for as much as $44 million in costs to oversee rail construction, Kobayashi says, foreshadows worse problems ahead if the Caldwell administration doesn’t start planning how to pay for the system’s operations.

Caldwell, however, says he’s laid the groundwork (by pushing thru several tax hikes) and he’s optimistic the city will have a plan (tax) by the time the system is running. The full line is now scheduled to start moving passengers in 2026, about six years after his term in office ends….

read … How Will Honolulu Pay To Run Rail Once It’s Built? The City Still Doesn’t Know

Water Board Asks Global Warming Committees to Certify Excuses for Next Rate Hike

IM: … The Honolulu Board of Water Supply (BWS) Manager Ernest Lau and Program Administrator Barry Usagawa have set the mark to beat in laying out a climate mitigation strategy. They made their presentation yesterday before the Honolulu Climate Change Commission.

BWS examined water recharge or water availability in the short-term, mid-term, and long-term for each water aquifer under different water scenarios.

They examined different existing pipe materials ability to withstand salt water corrosion.

There were delays in fixing three recent water main breaks. Repair crews had to wait until low tide so that the pipes were not in groundwater when they were repaired.

The BWS analysis examined not only the supply side and the infrastructure, but also the iterative process by which decisions would be made, and the collaborative approach to dealing with climate mitigation efforts.

There are three Hawaii Commission`s examining climate change.

The Hawai`i Climate Change Mitigation & Adaptation Committee, formerly known as the Interagency Climate Adaptation Committee (ICAC), is a government led body. The website lists members by position, not name. The body consists of eleven state agencies, four county agencies, two state legislators, and the head of the HTA.

The Carbon Farming Task Force has 15 members. The web site lists their names and positions. Five state members, four county members, three non-profit members, two University of Hawai`i members and one state senator.

The Honolulu Climate Change Commission consists of five members with expertise in climate change in Hawai`i. The Climate Change Commission was created after O`ahu voters approved an amendment to the City Charter in the 2016 general election that also mandated the creation of the Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency….

SA: Name in the News: Makena Coffman, professor and urban planner

read … Rate Hike Coming

Al Gore’s E-Bus Can’t Make it up Hills—‘Everybody was giggling’

SA: …During a state event last week showing off two e-bus models, Jon Nouchi, deputy director of the city Department of Transportation Services, described the performance of the Proterra model, which was given long-distance, hilly routes, as all positive with no problems even climbing up the tough incline from Pearl City to Mililani.

“No one really had anything negative to say,” he said of the Proterra e-bus when asked how the February test went. “We really tried to test these buses to their max limit. So with this bus we actually put it on the Route 52, which operates between Ala Moana and Haleiwa, and why that is significant is it goes on the freeway — high speeds on freeways are not really where electric vehicles do their best — but it goes on the freeway, it climbs H-2 all the way from Mililani to Wahiawa, then descends all the way to Haleiwa and then comes back to town. And it did two round trips on that with no problem.”  (IQ Test: Is he lying?)

But after a Honolulu Star-Advertiser story about the demonstration, a reader commented that there was indeed a problem with his ride to Wahiawa on the green Proterra bus. The bus, said rider Robert Conlan, was crawling up H-2.

“Everyone was giggling,” Conlan recalled, describing other passengers on that trip. “I turned to my seatmate and said, ‘I wonder if we’re going to make it.’ It was running slow.”

Conlan, who said he was late getting to Wahiawa because of the slow pace, added that even going down regular streets and on the H-1 freeway, the e-bus seemed to be lagging. “It didn’t keep up with other buses,” he said. “It was not as peppy as the regular bus.”

Nouchi said the bus did do poorly with the hill’s grade, especially near Mili­lani’s Pineapple Road overpass where it was going around 25 miles per hour, or about 10 mph slower than a typical diesel bus.

“It did have some gradeability problems,” Nouchi said Thursday. “It did not perform up to where we wanted on that route.”

Nouchi also said Thursday that the bus had difficulty climbing up Pali Highway and was not as well air-conditioned as regular TheBus vehicles…..

As Explained: Electric Buses: Caldwell Helps Al Gore with Billion Dollar IPO

read … E-bus struggles to make the grade

Bill 33: Rouse Mob to Tear Down Affordable Housing

SA: City officials could require a structure built without a permit to be torn down, under a bill introduced Thursday by Councilman Ikaika Anderson.

Anderson said Tuesday that he was contemplating such legislation after he was told by Planning and Permitting Acting Director Kathy Sokugawa that she might not have the authority to force a Kapahulu property owner to demolish a two-story house that’s being built without a building permit and despite a stop-work order. That’s assuming it meets code, she said.

Bill 33 is scheduled to get the first of three Council readings when the nine- member panel meets for its regular monthly meeting Wednesday….

An application for a building permit was submitted by ProWork Pacific Inc., Wu’s company, for “a new, two-story, two-family detached dwelling” on Nov. 15, 2016. But a permit has not yet been issued because the applicant still has to address two outstanding issues, Sokugawa said.

Brilliant Construction owner Benny Lee, reached by telephone Thursday night, said he couldn’t understand why it’s taken over a year to get a building permit for the project. Since the permit application was first submitted, he’s had it returned to him several times, each time with new comments and corrections he needed to make, Lee said.

The DPP plan checker assigned to his permit application is often unresponsive, said Lee, who has been out of the country and only returned to Hawaii on Wednesday. “I don’t know how much vacation he has,” he added.

Lee said he was hoping to meet with the plan checker today to finally get his permit. He called Thursday for an appointment, but no one answered the phone, he said.

If Anderson’s bill becomes law, many other contractors besides himself may be forced to tear down their buildings, Lee said.

Lee stressed that he is building a two-unit dwelling in an apartment zone where a complex with many more units is allowed….

Best Comment: “How about addressing the REAL PROBLEM...the ridiculous permitting process. Try see how long it takes just to submit for a permit! Some of the requirements (drawings, paperwork, surveys) that DPP and DLNR require cost more than the actual construction at times.

read … Lynch Mob

HB2605: No Taxation Without Legalization

SA: …In recent years, Airbnb has offered to handle the tax collection and remittance statewide, but has balked at the prospect of being held liable for law enforcement tasks. That’s not a surprising take, of course, given that client listings would tumble — initially, at least — if limited to legitimate operators.

The company and other brokers have pointed to the Communications Decency Act, which says Internet platforms cannot be held responsible for the illegal activity of third parties that use them to do business.

But that defense is not iron-clad, it seems. For example, when San Francisco passed laws in 2015 to slap brokers with penalties if they arranged stays in illegal rentals, platform companies sued. A federal judge rejected their claims and ordered them to work with the city to meet a January 2018 deadline for registering rental hosts in local government rolls.

That upshot appears to support enforcement tied to HB 2605. It would make it illegal for hosting platforms to do business with clients that are not “lawfully certified, registered, or permitted” under county ordinance. Violations would carry a $25,000 fine. Caldwell’s plan, meanwhile, targets the rental operator. Anyone caught advertising illegally would be hit with a penalty starting at $25,000 per day.

Both tactics could quickly put a dent in our underground inventory. However, success will be closely linked with swift and consistent enforcement of county and state law.

It’s entirely possible that if state lawmakers pass the bill, Airbnb will decide against taking on the role of tax collection and remittance. That would touch off a fresh set of challenges. Regardless, state lawmakers should support the bill….

read … Taxation without Legalization

HPA: Peter Kema Gets 18 Year Minimum

KHON: …Eighteen years! That's the minimum sentence handed down to Peter Kema Sr. by the parole board, for the death of his son "Peter Boy."

Prosecutors say they are pleased with the decision, but are still hoping that Kema is held in prison for the maximum 20-year term.

Kema could have been eligible for parole in less than seven years under the plea agreement. But the Hawaii Paroling Authority has the last say, and prosecutors say the notoriety of the case had to be considered in the decision.

Kema was sentenced to a 20-year maximum prison term after pleading guilty to manslaughter and hindering prosecution. As part of a plea deal with prosecutors, he would have been eligible for parole after serving six years and eight months.

Prosecutors were counting on the Hawaii Paroling Authority to raise the minimum sentence much higher, which it did, to 18 years.

read … 18 years

State seeks to cancel lease with Olomana Golf Club

KITV: Fears of vandalism and homeless squatters are among the new concerns for former staff at a Kailua golf course. The chains are up at the driveway of Olomana Golf Club on Thursday, and when they'll come down, is not yet known.

The club closed abruptly on Friday, April 13, without telling its landlord, the State Department of Land and Natural Resources. The state confirms it leased the property to Olomana Golf Links through the end of 2032.

The DLNR says the owner made a payment of $35,000 last month and has not cancelled the lease. The state says the tenant is in default on the rental payment, and as of Thursday, owes $110,000….

Another staffer hoping to return to a job soon says he's worried about the property falling into disrepair. The state says it inspected the property many times, as recently as Wednesday, April 18, and are not aware of any homeless tents - but that per the lease agreement, it would be the tenant's responsibility to secure the area.

The DLNR is now seeking to cancel the lease due to delinquent rent. That hearing is on April 27 with the Land Board. …

Related: Bumpy Kanahele Scheme: Exploit Homeless to grab Control of Golf Course

read … State seeks to cancel lease with Olomana Golf Club

Profitable Hysteria: Anti-Sunscreen Nuts Behind Beach-Based Corporate Marketing Blitz

CB: Beachgoers respond favorably when a nonprofit offers to swap their products containing oxybenzone for other sunscreens considered reef-safe.  (Massive free marketing campaign designed to shift consumer habits based on hype)

(BTW: Where are the protesters demanding that this commercial activity be banned from public parks?)

read … One Study + Many Hysterics = Profit

Police: Man arrested for demanding money from flood victims he 'rescued'

HNN: …Police identified the suspect as Stephen Koehne, a self-described "pirate" who has gotten into trouble with authorities before

Koehne was arrested for extortion, robbery and terroristic threatening. 

Kauai police and prosecutors are investigating multiple complaints from people who say they were rescued during the island’s historic rain and flood event over the weekend — only to be extorted for money by those who they thought were simply good Samaritans.

A number of residents and visitors who were trapped in Haena after the town’s only access road washed away during a flash flood told investigators that several people who took boats into the area represented themselves as rescuers and then demanded money for help.

“The boat operators would pull up on the shore and invite people onto the boat, with the idea they would carry them over to by where the St. Regis Hotel is, to get them to a place of safety,” said Kauai Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar.

But the boat operators turned out to be anything but heroes.

Kollar said they would then stop their vessels about 200 yards off shore and demand payment to go any farther.

Big Island resident Liana Leaulii, who was hiking along the Kalalau Trail when the severe weather began, said that's exactly what happened to her.

"Once we were out in the middle of the ocean, they were like, ‘Did so-and-so on the beach tell you it was $200 a head on the boat?’“ said Leaulii….

read … Police: Man arrested for demanding money from flood victims he 'rescued'

Soft on Crime: Nine-Time Loser Brings 1.3lb Heroin to Kona 

HTH: …John Patrick Rapozo, 44, of Hilo is charged with two counts of first-degree promotion of a dangerous drug, a single count of second-degree promotion of a dangerous drug plus being a felon in possession of a firearm, carrying a firearm in the commission of a felony drug offense and carrying a loaded firearm on a public highway….

According to Hawaii Police Department spokesman Alan Richmond, the bust occurred March 23 in Waimea when an officer stopped a vehicle on Mamalahoa Highway for failing to signal before making a left-hand turn. A search of the vehicle turned up 5.7 ounces — more than a 1/3 of a pound — of heroin and Rapozo was allegedly carrying a 9 mm weapon.

The indictment states Rapozo was previously convicted three times of first-degree burglary, twice of unauthorized control of a stolen vehicle and second-degree theft, plus bail jumping, third-degree promotion of a dangerous drug and possession of drug paraphernalia….

read … Three face heroin charges after traffic stop

Socialists: We Need More Criminals on Hawaii’s Streets

CB: Capitalism seems to know no limits to its brutality and both American political parties are beholden to it. Meanwhile, our local politics has even less of a check on this undue influence because of our virtual one-party system.  (But if we can get more criminals on the streets, we will show you some brutality.)

The author is an organizer with Democratic Socialists of Honolulu, whose members co-authored this Community Voice.

read … Socialism = Organized Crime

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