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Tuesday, June 19, 2018
June 19, 2018 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:43 PM :: 4718 Views

Hawaii Hotel Workers Win Right to Refuse to Pay Union Dues

New Campaign Highlights 680 Beer Distribution Jobs in Hawaii

Cat-Obsessed Animal Liberation Nuts Blamed for Monk Seal Deaths

UH Updates BoR on Maunakea Stewardship Before Supreme Court Hearing

Hawaii County Council Urges special session over State Land for Lava Victims

SA: Hawaii County Council members plan to take up a resolution today urging the state Legislature to convene a special session to address the impacts of the ongoing lava flow in Lower Puna where hundreds of homes, businesses and farms have been destroyed and about 2,000 people have been forced to evacuate….

However, leadership in the House and Senate as well as district representatives say more time is needed to come up with a specific plan before lawmakers reconvene at the state Capitol. They say they have yet to see any solid cost estimates as to what may be needed from the state or specific plans to deal with the immediate and longer-term housing crisis brought on by the inundation of lava. That there is no end in sight to the lava flows is only adding to the challenge of addressing the area’s needs….

While providing financial assistance to Hawaii County is emphasized in the resolution being introduced by Hawaii County Councilwoman Eileen O’Hara, who represents the hardest-hit area in Puna, state lawmakers say they are contemplating a range of ideas.

This includes the relaxation or suspension of land use laws to expedite housing development, possible tax relief for homeowners or even exempting pension plans from tax penalties if the beneficiary withdraws the money early to help rebuild a home, said House Finance Chairwoman Sylvia Luke.

More aggressive, and likely to be controversial, ideas include condemning the remaining homes in lava zones 1 and 2, the highest-risk areas, which would include reimbursing homeowners for the value of their properties. Homeowners could use that funding, as well as any money they have received from home insurance or federal disaster relief, to purchase new homes, said state Rep. Joy San Buena­ventura, who represents Pahoa and Kalapana. Lawmakers are also looking at possible land swap deals for affected residents and farmers….

State Sen. Russell Ruderman, who represents Puna, said he agreed that it was premature to convene a special session but emphasized that the situation, particularly in the shelters, was growing increasingly stressful for people.

“There are a lot of people falling through the cracks financially, so I think we really need to present a long-term housing proposal to deal with what is basically a PTSD situation right now,” said Ruderman….

read … Council members anticipate special session over lava’s ramifications

Unsealed documents show Katherine Kealoha’s secret deal with HPD-Connected drug defendant

SA: …Deputy Prosecutor Katherine Kealoha gave a favorable plea deal to a woman charged with distributing cocaine near schools and public parks while both were being represented by the same lawyer, according to recently unsealed state court records.

The unsealed records pertain to Tiffany Masunaga, who, along with former Honolulu police officer Alan Ahn, was indicted in 2015 on multiple counts of drug promotion involving prescription drugs, marijuana and cocaine.

Ahn pleaded no contest in January 2017 to all of the charges against him and was later sentenced to probation. Masunaga pleaded no contest in September 2016 to reduced charges as part of a cooperation agreement….

At the time she negotiated Masunaga’s cooperation agreement, both women were being represented by Honolulu defense lawyer Myles Breiner. Kealoha negotiated the Masunaga deal with Breiner.

Breiner was Masunaga’s lawyer in the drug case and represented Kealoha and her husband, then-Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha, as federal prosecutors were making their case against the Kealohas in front of a federal grand jury….

The Hawaii Supreme Court ordered Trader to unseal the records in a June 5 opinion but allowed the state a 10-day window to ask for a hearing to pre­sent additional information justifying keeping the records sealed. Kaneshiro’s office made no request. Trader unsealed the documents Friday…. 

CB: Recently unsealed court documents point to a questionable link between a suspect in a drug case and the Honolulu prosecutor’s office

read … Unsealed documents show Katherine Kealoha’s secret deal with a drug defendant

SB2343: Lawyer-Laden Legislature Keeps Courts Jammed

SA: Senate Bill 2343 would have made multiple changes to Hawaii law, including creating a petty misdemeanor category for abuse of a family or household member and allowing for deferred pleas for misdemeanor domestic abuse.

It was supported by a diverse group ranging from prosecutors and police to victims and advocates.

The changes would have helped ease the court congestion problem that afflicts domestic abuse cases, supporters said….

A defendant prosecuted for a petty misdemeanor would not be entitled to a jury trial, which many alleged abusers now demand because prosecutors have such a poor track record when trying misdemeanor abuse cases before a jury. The heavy demand for such trials contributes to congestion.

But if defendants only could have bench trials in petty misdemeanor cases, they might be reluctant to chance a trial, and more cases would be settled prior to holding one, proponents say….

SA: Legislature keeps grip on Judiciary’s purse strings

read … Job Security for Lawyers

Ethics: Council Not Sure it Wants Officials to be Truthful 

BIVN: The Hawaii County Council Finance Committee on Tuesday debated a new bill that would force government officials to be “truthful”, under the ethics code.

Bill 160, introduced by Puna councilwoman Eileen O’Hara, would amend the county code of ethics to include a new mandate for officers and employees of the County, while discharging their duties and dealing with the public, to be truthful.

The bill also added a definition for truthful: “stating, telling, or expressing accurate and correct facts.”

Puna resident Rib Tucker testified in support of the measure, after bad experience in 2016 with the Department of Public Works over the new building code as it relates to small, unpermitted utility structures on agricultural land, which Tucker’s business had been offering to the market. Tucker said the new code allows for the structures, the county says that may not be the case and takes issue with Tucker’s advertising the products as such.

Councilmembers, who saw some others areas where government could be more truthful, balked at the bill, fearing that it would open the door to a multitude of ethics complaints. But they indicated that with some retooling of the bill, they might support it. O’Hara postponed the bill to the call of the chair in order to bring forward some amendments.

read … Truthy

Final vote on proposed Hawaii County GET increase set today

HTH: …Eighteen people came out to a public hearing Monday evening on a proposed quarter-percent increase in the general excise tax, evenly split between those in support and those in opposition….

If Bill 159 passes, the tax goes into effect Jan. 1, raising about $10 million for the 2018-19 budget year, and $20 million the year after that….

“It comes to a certain point that you have to be concerned about doing what’s right rather than whats in your image,” said former Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille, who supports the tax…. Supporters also included a county employee and county consultants….

Another former council member, former South Kona/Ka’u Councilwoman Brenda Ford, said the administration hasn’t made it clear where the money will be spent. She urged the council to oppose the tax until it had a clear list of expenditures.

“This is just asking for a shell game. … Do not let the administration do this,” Ford said. “Do not let this administration fool the public or even fool you. … It’s got to be very specific.”

Others wanted more details as well.

“It’s hard to support raising taxes until the county does a better job both saying where the money is going and making that money go as far as possible,” said Geoff Shaw….

read … Final vote on proposed GET increase set today

Volcano Destroys 400 TVRs -- Hawaii County Council Waits Til July 10 to Finish Them Off

HTH: After hearing pleas from short-term vacation rental operators in Puna and elsewhere asking the county to put a vacation rental bill aside until Puna and the county recover from its ongoing lava emergency, the County Council Planning Committee postponed action until July 10.

Puna Councilwoman Eileen O’Hara tried to sweeten the deal by adding language that would allow the planning director to accept applications for new short-term vacation rentals to replace those lost during an emergency. She estimated as many as 400 vacation rentals, almost half of the inventory in her district, were destroyed by lava flows. …

O’Hara’s extensive amendments were postponed along with the bill.

Other officials were unsure about allowing vacation rentals to be rebuilt when the point of the bill is to move them out of inappropriate zones….. 

VIDEO: Public Testifies On Vacation Rental Bill 108

read … Council panel postpones action on vacation rentals bill following passionate testimony

817 people register for FEMA assistance after Kilauea eruption on Hawaii's Big Island

PBN: Hawaii County Civil Defense said that 817 people have so far registered for federal assistance amid the ongoing eruption of Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island.

"As of yesterday afternoon 817 people have registered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency for assistance either on line or at the Disaster Recovery Center or DRC," the civil defense agency said in statement on Tuesday morning….

On Monday, the agency confirmed that 533 homes in Kilauea's east rift zone have so far been destroyed by lava….

The eruption, which started in the Leilani Estates subdivision on May 3, has also led to the evacuation of more than 2,000 people….

 

There’s a public meeting on the lava situation at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Pahoa High School cafeteria….

read … 817

Did the floods and the lava affect unemployment?

HNN: …These are the Kauai and Big Island new jobless claims numbers for the most recent weeks we have. Kauai has risen from 66 to 80 to 93 new claims.

The Big Island has risen from 258 to 259 to 365 new claims. But as Bruno Mars would say, "Wait a minute!" Oahu and Maui claims ALSO rose over these three weeks….

read … Did the floods and the lava affect unemployment? 

State kicks off pilot aimed at filling high-need jobs more quickly

HNN:  … The pilot, called, Wiki Wiki Hire, is currently recruiting for Child Welfare Services Branch employees in East Hawaii Island.

"The Wiki Wiki Hire pilot program allows us flexibility to recruit the best candidates and get them into positions that need to be filled rapidly," said state Department of Human Services Director Pankaj Bhanot….

For more information or to apply, click here….

read … State kicks off pilot aimed at filling high-need jobs more quickly

Poll: Tax Reform: Good or Bad for Hawaii?

HB:  …Now that you are done with your 2017 federal taxes, you may be thinking: How will tax reform affect me? We test local opinion with surveys of 426 residents and 443 business leaders….

read … Tax Reform: Good or Bad for Hawaii?

Will Al Gore’s Electric Bus Scam Trick Kauai?

KHON: On Kauai, the county will be offering free electric bus demonstrations from Wednesday, June 20, through Saturday, June 23.

It is free of charge, and Kauai Bus staff will be present on the busses to ask riders to provide feedback in order for the transportation agency to gather data for the potential future use of the busses….

Two 40-feet battery electric busses from different bus manufacturers (Proterra and BYD Motors) will run parallel to the existing Kekaha and Hanalei routes….

read … Will Al Gore’s Electric Bus Scam Trick Kauai?

City extends homeless center on Sand Island

KHON: It's been nearly three years since a homeless center opened its doors on Sand Island.

Now the city is set to expand it.

The city's Hale Mauliola navigation center has secured a four-year extension of its lease, after a unanimous vote by the state Board of Land and Natural Resources.

The facility also recently upgraded its sewer system, and expanded to accommodate more clients.

"Over 600 people have now been served here at the navigation center in cooperation with Governor Ige and his administration," said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell."600 so far. Think about how many more will be served over the next four years to help people get back on their feet."

Hale Mauliola's lease is now set to expire on Sept. 30, 2022….

read … City expands homeless center on Sand Island

Is Honolulu Hale Making City Staffers Sick?

CB: …City Council Chairman Ernie Martin thinks so — and wants to relocate the legislative branch out of the 90-year-old building….

read … Is Honolulu Hale Making City Staffers Sick?

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