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Thursday, March 21, 2019
March 21, 2019 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:52 PM :: 4529 Views

Hawaii Supreme Court Rejects Rail Surcharge Lawsuit

How to Solve the Hawaiian Homelands Problem

Disabled Inmates: Feds Reach Agreement with Hawaii DPS

Report: Hawaii Congressional Delegation Extremely Partisan, Except Gabbard

Trump Ties Federal Funds for Colleges to Free-Speech Pledge

Angry drivers blast state’s proposal to nix fuel tax for road usage surcharge

HNN: … The state wants to nix a fuel tax on drivers and instead charge them on how much they drive. But that proposal was met with outrage at a community meeting Wednesday night at Kapolei High School.

The rowdy reaction from the crowd was so harsh, police were called out as angry residents challenged state officials on their tax proposal….

residents who live on Oahu’s west side, and who already spend hours of their day stuck in traffic trying to get to their jobs in town, believe the proposal adds insult to injury.

One lawmaker says drivers in her district feel that’s less fair since the more “affluent” residents live in urban Honolulu, whereas those who aren’t as wealthy live further out, in more rural areas, and have to commute longer distances.

“People are clearly, visibly upset,” said state Rep. Sharon Har. “These models that work on the mainland, don’t necessarily work here in Hawaii. As you know on the mainland, you have the more affluent living in the suburbs, and they can afford to pay for something like a toll or a road usage charge. Whereas in Hawaii, it’s the exact opposite.”…

Road Usage Charge: HDoT Community Meetings on Latest Tax Hike Scheme

read … Angry drivers blast state’s proposal to nix fuel tax for road usage surcharge

Lyon contract scandal leaves Hawaii government officials scrambling

SA: … State and city agencies have been canceling or suspending contracts with Honolulu-­based Lyon Associates in the wake of a federal corruption probe involving the civil engineering firm whose president recently pleaded guilty to bribing government officials in Hawaii and Micronesia to obtain more than $10 million in contracts over the past decade….

The investigation has put local government officials on edge as they review contracts entered into with Lyon over the years and as concerns mount that the investigation into Hawaii government contracting could widen. Lyon Associates was awarded dozens of contracts and subcontracts with state and county government agencies over the years.

The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands has suspended five contracts with Lyon Associates totaling more than $1.5 million in recent weeks, said Cedric Duarte, a spokesman for the department.

Some of the contracts involved engineering services for flood damage on Kauai and Molokai caused by heavy rainfall in 2012 and work involving dams on Kauai.

Top officials at DHHL also have taken the unusual step of contacting federal investigators to proffer documents relating to a $2.5 million contract the department awarded to Lyon Associates in 2010. A Hawaii News Now story earlier this year identified the contract as the subject of the investigation, though the Star-Advertiser was unable to independently confirm that….

Duarte said that DHHL had not received a target letter or subpoena from federal investigators relating to any of its contracts with Lyon Associates and DHHL remained in the dark as to whether the $2.5 million contract was indeed being investigated.

Duarte said DHHL officials had reviewed the contract, which was for designing the repair and removal of dams on Kauai, and found that the state’s procurement policies were followed.

The Hawaii Department of Transportation has canceled a $2.2 million contract that it awarded to Lyon Associates in December 2018 for tarmac work at Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.

Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources is also closing out a $174,560 contract with the company for flood mitigation work along Kaluanui stream. The department says the contract hasn’t been active for a year.

The City of Honolulu is in the process of terminating four contracts that it has with Lyon Associates, and will let a fifth contract terminate in June, according to Andrew Pereira, a spokesman for Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

Since 2010, the city has entered into contracts with Lyon Associates worth about $1.8 million to design bus stop improvements and street repairs and work on a Manoa earth stabilization project….

Obtaining a comprehensive list of contracts that the state has entered into with Lyon Associates over the years involving more than a dozen departments and multiple attached agencies isn’t easy given major deficiencies in the State Procurement Office’s data collection system. But records requests sent to numerous individual departments seeking contracts dating back to 2010 indicate that Lyon Associates has had substantial business with the state.

DHHL awarded a total of 11 contracts to Lyon Associates worth close to $4.8 million from 2010 to now, while DLNR entered into four contracts with the company worth about $800,000. DOT awarded the company about $6.6 million in contracts since 2010. The Transportation Department also paid the company about $1.2 million for a Hawaii Scenic Byways program under a contract that dates back to 2004 and was amended as late as of 2014. That program appears to be defunct….



read … Lyon contract scandal leaves Hawaii government officials scrambling

Hawaii Nearly Alone: 2/3 of Legislative Races Uncontested

AP: The most extreme examples are Hawaii, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, all of which have legislatures controlled by Democrats.

Their control is so complete that in about two-thirds of legislative races in each state last fall, voters had just one ballot option: the Democratic candidate.

… In Hawaii, Democrats’ dominance goes back decades.

Last year, the Hawaii Republican Party contested just 5 of 13 state Senate seats up for election and 17 of 51 House seats. The party focused on candidate quality instead of quantity as it targeted districts where it had the best chances of winning.

The party gained one seat in the state 25-member Senate, its only one. In the 51-member House, the party held steady with five seats.

Analysts say the large number of uncontested races depresses voter turnout, which is among the lowest in the nation. In the 2018 general election, 52.7 percent of Hawaii’s registered voters cast ballots.

“Democracy needs an opposition party,” said Colin Moore, a University of Hawaii political science professor. “You need someone who has an incentive to make policy decisions more transparent, to force hard choices on the majority party, to not allow everything to operate behind closed doors, which is often what happens in a single-party state.”

To encourage more people to vote, Hawaii lawmakers have introduced several election reform bills this year. These include voting by mail, automatic voter registration and using ranked-choice voting in special elections and partisan primaries.

read … In 3 states, two-thirds of statehouse races were uncontested

Hawaii legislative committees reject plastics ban proposals

SA: … Two Hawaii legislative committees have rejected proposals that would have banned a variety of plastics used by the food service industry.

The committees today amended an anti-plastics bill to delete a section that would have prohibited the sale and use of plastic drink bottles, utensils, stirring sticks, bags and straws.

But the House Consumer Protection and Commerce Committee and the House Judiciary Committee both voted to keep a section of the bill establishing a working group to develop a plan to eliminate single-use plastic packaging.

They are sending the amended bill to the House Finance Committee for further consideration.

The committees deferred another bill that would have banned polystyrene foam containers at restaurants and other businesses.….

read … Hawaii legislative committees reject plastics ban proposals

EVs costing state millions, blamed for airport parking congestion

HNN: … The state is losing out on millions of dollars each year in annual parking revenues because electric vehicles get to park at the airport for free.

And many travelers are complaining that the EVs are taking up much needed parking spaces at the airports, adding even more congestion in the parking structures….

Electric cars represent less than 1 percent of all car on Hawaii’s roads. But at the Honolulu International Airport’s parking structures, they’re among the most popular vehicles because owners can leave their cars there free of charge for up to three months.

A Hawaii News Now examination today found that of the airport’s 4,500 parking stalls, 550 -- or about 12 percent -- were taken by EVs….

Many of the EVs are likely owned by airport workers who wouldn’t otherwise be able to park there.

A bill introduced this session would only allow four hours of free parking at airports but that bill, which was opposed by electric vehicle advocates, died this session…. 

read … EVs costing state millions, blamed for airport parking congestion

42 sweeps in 90 days and still volatile encampment plagues neighborhood

HNN: … Despite more than 40 sweeps in 90 days, a volatile homeless encampment remains a fixture in a busy Makiki neighborhood.

Less than 24 hours after city crews forced campers off the sidewalk on Young Street ― not far from Piikoi Street ― tents were back on Wednesday morning.

Blocked walkways often pose a hazard there.

But neighbors say recently that’s become the least of their worries.

“I literally call the police every other day,” said Tanya Benicta, who manages a business that backs up to the encampment. She said over the past year the trouble that used to be outside has found its way into her store.

“We had a shopping cart thrown through our front door,” she said. “We find needles and blood in our bathroom. Just a couple days ago we had a stabbing take place right in my loading dock.”

Benicta said the victim of the stabbing worked nearby….

One resident, who asked that his name not be used, said someone tried to steal his car from the garage Monday night….

(Really Obvious Solution: Arrest these criminals for their crimes and put them in jail.)

SA Editorial: Housing for homeless

read … 42 sweeps in 90 days and still volatile encampment plagues neighborhood

16 more MCCC inmates transferred to Halawa Correctional Facility

SA: … However, five detainees who were brought to Halawa on the original flight were returned to MCCC today, the news release said.

According to a DPS spokesperson, the original list of inmates was based on preliminary information, and this was subject to change once more facts came in and follow up interviews confirmed that the five inmates did not contribute to the disturbance.

A total of 32 inmates have been transferred to Halawa due to the disturbance.

Once all inmates responsible for the incident are confirmed, they will be brought up on criminal charges, DPS said, as well as internal disciplinary action….

read … 16 more MCCC inmates transferred to Halawa Correctional Facility

Councilmembers Call for Patrick Wong’s Resignation

MN: … Last week, Maui County Corporation Counsel Patrick Wong made more than $2,800 without having to lift a finger. How’d he get such a sweet gig? He was arrested, of course.

Wong, the county’s top civil attorney, was placed on paid administrative leave by Mayor Mike Victorino on March 9 after being arrested and charged by the Maui Police Department for abuse of a household member. “I do not tolerate abuse or harmful behavior from anyone,” the mayor said in a statement, after announcing what amounts to a paid vacation for Wong.

“Our justice system provides due process,” Victorino explained later. “A defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.”

When asked what a decision on Wong’s removal or reinstatement is pending, Victorino’s Communications Office was not forthcoming. After repeated requests, spokesman Brian Perry answered simply, “I’m unable to answer speculative questions or comment on personnel matters.”

So, presumably, Victorino is keeping Wong on paid leave while the “justice system provides due process,” something that could take months. It’s a process backed by Councilmember Riki Hokama, who told me he would wait for the results of the investigation, because “I don’t make decisions based on allegations.”

The situation is similar to one currently unfolding on O‘ahu, with Honolulu’s Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro and Corporation Counsel Donna Leong on paid leave as a result of an investigation into their involvement in alleged crimes committed by Katherine and Louis Kealoha….

Councilmember Keani Rawlins-Fernandez has also called for Wong’s resignation.

“There is no question in my mind that Pat Wong should resign,” she told me, citing a pattern of “abusive behavior” in the workplace which, along with his recent arrest, she said qualify as misconduct under the Hawaii Rules of Professional Conduct for practicing lawyers.

Rawlins-Fernandez added that Wong, as legal advisor to the county, “should have held himself to a much higher standard.”

Wong’s right to due process is applicable regarding whether he is disbarred or convicted, she said, but “as to keeping the position as lead attorney for the County of Maui, the mayor is aware that Mr. Wong is an ‘at will’ appointed position, and appointed employees can be relieved of their positions, and have been relieved of their positions in the past for far less.”….

read … Resign

HPD Chief Ballard Says Allegations Of Doctored Test Scores Are Unfounded

CB: …Commission Chairwoman Loretta Sheehan said she knew about the lawsuit at the time of Ballard’s interview with commissioners for the chief’s job. She said she chalked it up to a “personal beef” between Ballard and Koanui.

“I understand that lawsuits settle,” said Sheehan. “I personally, if I had been trial attorney, might have made a different choice — but that’s not my call.”

She added, “There is no misconduct, in my opinion, of Chief Ballard.”

Steven Levinson, the only other current police commissioner who was involved with Ballard’s hiring, said she was “clearly and indisputably the most qualified candidate” for the job.

“I think the suggestion that we were somehow taking leave of our senses to have hired her in the first place is way out of line,” Levinson said referring to a recent editorial in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “And I think the suggestion that the commission owes the public an explanation as to why this case was settled — a matter over which we had and have no control whatsoever — was way, way out of line.”

While the commission is responsible for hiring and disciplining the police chief, it does not play a role in settling lawsuits involving the chief or other police officers….

read … HPD Chief Ballard Says Allegations Of Doctored Test Scores Are Unfounded

Kauai vs Miscellaneous Billionaires

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