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Tuesday, March 26, 2019
March 26, 2019 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:16 PM :: 3614 Views

Prince Kuhio’s Fight to Americanize Hawaii

Pearl Harbor Profligacy

UH Class Constitutes "material support of a Foreign Terrorist Organization"?

Hilo Has the Highest Food Prices in America

The hypocrisy of minimum-wage laws

Tulsi Gabbard says Mueller clearing Trump is 'a good thing for America'

Hawaii: Worst Taxpayer Return on Investment in USA

Maui Mayor Proposes $869.5M Budget

Hawaii More drug deaths than traffic fatalities 

Hawaii Democrats Propose Ranked-Choice Voting in Presidential Preference Poll

Lawmakers Move Swiftly On Spending Plan, But That’s Not The End Of The Debate

CB: … House Bill 2 was “decked” on Monday, which means the biennial budget proposal has been provided to lawmakers for a 48-hour review before being voted on by the full House and Senate.

But many of the biggest spending questions remain unresolved, guaranteeing a great deal more political wrangling over the budget before the session is scheduled to end May 2.

The budget, negotiated by House Finance Chairwoman Sylvia Luke and Senate Ways and Means Chairman Donavon Dela Cruz, doesn’t yet include any money for such high-profile items as disaster aid for the Big Island, the expansion of pre-K education and more tuition support for college students….

The state is finding itself tighter on money than expected at this point because the Council on Revenues has predicted slower economic growth and less revenue coming in to the state coffers than previously forecast. So Dela Cruz thinks tax hikes, including some that target the affluent, will be needed to balance the budget (pay for all the give-aways to union bosses).

Ige will now need to make some decisions that the governor has so far avoided, including finding more money to pay for initiatives he has championed, Dela Cruz said.

“We would have hoped (the governor and his staff) would have some revenue-generating bills, but they don’t,” he said. “You’ve got to anticipate, especially in this time, you need to put some hard thought into what kinds of taxes you can raise without impacting the middle and lower class.”…

Another big ticket item that remains unfunded is disaster relief for the Big Island. Lawmakers have estimated about $60 million is needed.

There are other issues looming in the capital budget, as well, such as a proposed new $350 million facility to replace crumbling Aloha Stadium….

The new budgeting procedure calls for review of department budgets by the committee chairs who oversee those departments.

That’s resulted in some specific programs, including the Agribusiness Development Corp., agencies within the Commerce and Consumer Affairs Department, the Department of Transportation’s commercial harbors and the Hawaii Energy Office, being set aside from the current budget for further review….

Funding for additions to programs for housing, the homeless and the elderly are also undecided, leaving many advocates in the dark.

Dela Cruz said existing programs for the elderly and the homeless were not included in the current budget because they require extra consideration, particularly in light of efforts to increase funding….

The new budget scrutiny, which requires agency heads to provide more detailed financial information to the Legislature than they had been asked for in the past and in a tight time window, has caused great concern among social service agencies, said Jim Shon, head of the nonprofit Kokua Council, which advocates for the elderly.

Shon, a former legislator and legislative director at the University of Hawaii, said of some agencies, “they are panicking.”

Advocates of the change in budget procedure, which is known as “zero-based budgeting,” say it has boosted accountability by requiring state department heads and agencies to explain and justify their budgets to committee chairs….

read … Lawmakers Move Swiftly On Spending Plan, But That’s Not The End Of The Debate

HB1191: Amended Minimum Wage Bill a Lot Tougher on Small Business

HTH: … A bill that would increase the state’s minimum hourly wage has been modified to raise wages even more quickly.

House Bill 1191 originally proposed to increase the state’s minimum hourly wage by $1 increments each year starting in 2020, until it reached $15 an hour in 2024.

However, the bill has been amended to effect the same wage increase in only two increments: the first, in 2020, would raise the minimum wage from the current $10.10 an hour to $12; and the second would bring the minimum wage to $15 an hour beginning in 2023, one year before the original proposal.

The amended bill also removes a level of complexity regarding insured employees. While the original bill would increase the minimum wage up to $12.50 an hour for employees who receive health coverage through their employers, the most recent version of the bill eliminates that option, so that all employees would receive the same wage increase.

The Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce, which had previously adopted a “wait and see” approach regarding the bill — unlike the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, which has opposed the bill in all its forms since its inception — declared on Monday its opposition to the bill, for fear that increasing the costs for Hawaii businesses will push the state’s already high cost of living to intolerable levels.

“The question comes down to whether businesses can afford to increase wages without passing on the cost to the customer,” said Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce President Gordon Takaki.

The newest version of the bill does feature a form of mitigation to offset the cost of a wage increase: an income tax credit of 20 percent of the total cost of the wage increase for qualifying small businesses with 50 employees or less. The tax credit would not exceed $50,000.

However, the tax credit might not be sufficient, according to some businesses.

Kelly Drysdale, director of logistics and human resources for the Kona Coffee and Tea Company, said even the $50,000 maximum would barely cover half of the company’s current medical insurance costs, let alone an increase in wages….

The Senate Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing regarding HB 1191 on Thursday. Written testimony can be submitted at capitol.hawaii.gov….

read … Minimum wage bill tweaked but alive

Homeless: Ohana Zones Money Begins to Flow—No Tent Cities Yet

CB: … Some state agencies and nonprofit groups have begun spending $17 million in state funds set aside in December for ohana zones to provide housing and services to homeless people.

Catholic Charities Hawaii has used some of the money to help 60 people on Oahu’s Leeward Coast, and Residential Youth Services and Empowerment has expanded its bed capacity and is in the process of contracting for clinical services.

The state is still finalizing  contract language for how other portions of the $17 million will be spent…. 

Catholic Charities of Hawaii is still renovating some units at Villages of Maili. It opened 22 units March 1.  The remaining 56 units in the 78-unit facility could be open by the end of April ….

Residential Youth Services and Empowerment, a homeless shelter serving 18- to 24-year-olds… on the grounds of the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility between Kailua and Waimanalo added 10 more beds, raising its capacity to 30 people, said RYSE Founder Carla Houser.

It’s also hired a behavioral health coordinator and will be finalizing a contract with the University of Hawaii Manoa nursing school to provide medical clinic services two days a week, Houser said….

Morishige said the state could be providing additional ohana zone funds to the City and County of Honolulu to help fund a Honolulu Police Department plan to set up inflatable tents in Oahu parks as temporary shelters for the homeless.

Morishige said the state is also considering increasing the capacity of homeless shelters on both the east and west sides of Hawaii Island, but didn’t provide any details about specific projects.

He said the state is still discussing how ohana zone funds will be used on Kauai and Maui. Morishige said the state is also considering using some of the money to expand law enforcement diversion programs intended to steer nonviolent offenders away from jail and toward social service programs on all the islands.

On Maui, Mayor Mike Victorino said in his state of the county speech in February that converting vacant University of Hawaii Maui College dorms into affordable housing units could help homeless families….

On Kauai, Mayor Derek Kawakami told legislators in January that Pua Loke Arboretum, a state park across from the Kukui Grove Shopping Center, could be a good site for an ohana zone…..

He said the state could increase the city’s funding to help HPD implement its lift zones, which would lift overnight camping rules and allow homeless individuals and families to stay in inflatable tents deployed by police.

Morishige said the tents could stay in the parks up to 90 days before moving. HPD estimates the project could cost $3 million.

Morishige said one of the challenges of locating sites for ohana zones has been finding areas with existing infrastructure.

Several bills making their way through the Legislature would extend the time the state has to implement the pilot program. Senate Bill 470 would extend the program by one year to 2022. House Bill 257 would extend the pilot to 2023. Both would also allow ohana zones on private land.

Currently, ohana zones can only be established on public land.

Senate Bill 1131 would also extend the pilot program to 2022 as well as require the state to identify six ohana zone sites on Oahu instead of the three sites the current law requires. 

SA: Homeless Harass Seniors in Waikiki

read … No Tent Cities so far—but its not over yet

Honolulu councilwoman seeks $21M to Build Massive Festering Homeless Tent Cities in Every District

SA: … Honolulu Councilwoman Kymberly Pine has proposed that each of the nine Council members receive $2.3 million — or $21 million overall — to use in efforts to reduce homelessness (build tent cities)….

Pine, vice chairwoman of the Council Budget Committee, submitted a budget amendment Friday that she said she hopes will encourage her colleagues to work with elected state officials in each of their districts to come up with “bold” ideas if the funding goes through….

Pine’s budget plan is similar to former Council Chairman Ernie Martin’s proposal in 2015 to give each Council member $2 million to create tent cities and homeless hygiene centers in their districts, which for the most part failed to materialize. Since then the concept of tent cities has largely been shot down by state and city officials.

Only Councilman Joey Manahan has since welcomed a hygiene center in his district: the Punawai Rest Stop, which opened in November in Iwilei.

Pine hopes that new funding to address homelessness will lead state legislators to help with future homeless projects in Council districts. State officials “can help us with the social service and mental health services that only the state can provide,” Pine said. “That’s their specialty.”

(Translation: We won’t pay for services, we will just create giant tent cities and then the state will be forced to provide services.)

read … Honolulu councilwoman seeks $21M to address homelessness in Hawaii

Special East Honolulu election further scrutinized after a voter is mailed 2 ballots  

HNN: … The special election is set for April 13. It’s taking place after the November election results were invalidated by the Hawaii Supreme Court because of errors.

Now, more concerns are coming to light after one voter says she was sent two ballots in the mail.

The woman -- who did not want to be identified -- says both envelopes have her name and Maunalani Heights address. She also lives alone.

"I noticed right away there were two yellow envelopes," said the woman. "I opened them and I was stunned to see that there were two mail-in ballots for the same election."

She says it's a major mistake in a race that is already heavily scrutinized. She says like many East Honolulu residents, she hopes this election will finally be decided.

"I want this whole thing to be settled. But because this has happened, either Mr. Ozawa or Mr. Waters could question the result based on this glitch. And I wouldn't blame them," she said….

Rex Quidilla, Honolulu's Election Administrator, says its unclear why the woman received two ballots.

He says this case is extremely rare and that there are safeguards in place to ensure no one casts more than one ballot.

"On every return envelope, there's a bar code. And the bar code matches a transaction, so we're able to keep track of pieces that come back and make sure there's no two ballots for one voter," Quidilla said.

Quidilla says automation was used to mail 62,000 ballots to voters in Council District 4….

While the election is being conducted by mail, those who prefer to vote in person can do so at Honolulu Hale starting April 1….

read … Special East Honolulu election further scrutinized after a voter is mailed 2 ballots

Child Molester Internet sting nets retired police officer looking for 13-year-old Boy

SA: … A retired Honolulu police officer is among four people the FBI arrested this past weekend in an internet child sex sting operation.

The FBI says agents arrested James-Dean Kalani Goeas on Saturday for using the internet to entice a minor for sex when Goeas showed up at a public park to meet with someone he thought was a 13-year-old boy. The “boy” was actually an undercover law enforcement officer who had posted a false profile on a social media and dating application.

One other defendant, Ryan Cowley, was arrested Saturday. Two others, Noel Macapagal and Neal Both-Magnisi, were arrested on Sunday. All four defendants spent the weekend in custody at the Federal Detention Center and made their initial appearance in U.S. District Court today….

The Honolulu Police Department says Goeas received his appointment as an officer in 1987 and retired in 2015….

HNN: Eight suspects are now in custody … Officials identified half of the suspects as Chann Bun, Nicholas Singletary, Michael AJ Silva and Kaika Lacaden.

HTH: Repeat Child Molester -- Hilo man gets 20 years for assaulting girl

read … Just Another Day in the HPD 

EMS staffing shortage leads to units closing down on Oahu

KHON:  … EMS units on Oahu are forced to shut down regularly because there aren't enough workers, and it's raising serious concerns about public safety.

Added on to problems with old ambulances that are breaking down, some are calling it an emergency medical care crisis.

Workers say something needs to be done right now because it's creating a domino effect. The shortage is burning them out, leading to more workers calling in sick.

A message was sent out to all EMS workers Sunday saying, "For tomorrow Monday March 25 we are looking for 13 people on the midnight shift to avoid closing multiple units."

Paramedics say this has become routine. In many cases, they've been forced to work past their 12-hour shift and instead wind up working 16 to 18 hours….

KHON2 has spoken to several workers who said the same thing. Six units were closed overnight, four units were closed the night before. That's out of the 21 units island wide….

read … EMS staffing shortage leads to units closing down on Oahu

Hawaii hotels report February as worst monthly performance in about a decade

SA: … February wasn’t a month to love for Hawaii’s hotel industry, which experienced drops statewide in hotel occupancy, average daily rate, revenue per available room, and revenue.

Statewide occupancy fell nearly 3 percentage points to 83.4 percent from February 2018, while average daily rate dipped just over 1 percent to $290 and revenue per available room declined more than 4 percent to $242, according to a Hawaii Hotel Performance report published by the Hawaii Tourism Authority today, using data from the data and analytic company STR.

Statewide February revenue also decreased nearly 6 percent from the year-ago month to $360 million.

All major islands, including Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii island, experienced year-over-year drops in occupancy from February 2018 to February 2019. Revenue per available room, which is the rate that a hotelier gets per hotel room regardless of whether it’s occupied, declined on every island, except Oahu where it remained flat.

Average daily rate rose on Oahu, but dropped on all other major islands….

read … Hawaii hotels report February as worst monthly performance in about a decade

Volcano Effect on Tourism -- ‘Like 9-11’

HTH: … The 2018 eruption, Brewbaker said, represented a disruption to the state’s economy roughly on par with those caused by 9/11 — when a widespread fear of flying caused visitors to the island to drop precipitously — and the concurrent closures of Aloha Airlines and ATA Airlines in 2008. While the economy eventually rebounded from those disruptions, Brewbaker said this time might be different.

Even before the eruption, unemployment was rising statewide, Brewbaker said, which he explained is possibly indicative of an upcoming nationwide economic recession. And, after the eruption began in May, unemployment in Hawaii County rose from 2.3 percent to 3.5 percent.

Unemployment has been declining steadily for a decade since the 2008 recession, when it reached more than 10 percent. The post-eruption spike in unemployment abruptly reversed that trend and has yet to correct itself.

Meanwhile, economic growth throughout the state has slowed during the past several years. While median single-family home values have increased in the past decade, that increase has slowed year-by-year, reaching about $400,000 on the Big Island in February, shy of the peaks before the 2008 recession. That slowing in growth is not necessarily reflected on the mainland, Brewbaker said. While home values on the Big Island generally matched those in Southern California through the ’90s and during the 2008 recession, they have trended behind Southern California values for the past several years, with the gap seemingly widening.

“There’s something going on in SoCal that we’re missing,” Brewbaker said….

Related: Lava Tube Dishonor goes to Hawaii County Civil Defense

read …  Economist talks about future of state, post-eruption

Coco Palms Defaults

KGI: … Efforts to redevelop the former Coco Palms resort have collapsed, with the two Oahu men behind the project facing foreclosure after defaulting on $11.2 million in financing they used to purchase the property five years ago.

Two Utah-based companies involved in financing the project said on Monday that the Coco Palms property, which consists of about 20 acres on Kuhio Highway at Kuamoo Road in Wailua, was in default and that the ruins of the hotel were being put on the market. The property is owned by Coco Palms Hui, LLC, formed by two Honolulu developers to take over the former hotel famed for hosting dozens of stars, most notably Elvis Presley.

The development follows several years of increasing uncertainty of the viability of the project to redevelop Coco Palms as a modern resort. The property has been in disrepair since it was heavily damaged during Hurricane Iniki in 1992. Coco Palms Hui is headed by Chad Waters and Tyler Greene, who run GreeneWaters, LLC, a Honolulu real estate development firm.

In addition to the 20 acres Coco Palms owns, the resort also occupies 14.8 acres of state land, which Coco Palms has leased since 1983, according to the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. Lease rights cannot be conveyed to another party without further approval by the Board of Land and Natural Resources, a DLNR spokesperson said.

Rumors of the potential failure of the project have abounded for more than a year.….

2018: Video: Marshal Resigns After Fake Atooi King Teams up With Developer to Chase Protesters Off Land

read … Coco Palms Defaults

Blue Planet: We Must Destroy the Environment to Stop Climate Change

IM: … Palehua Wind will create a significant amount of clean energy…We can no longer afford the luxury of opposing renewable energy projects because of aesthetic preferences or a NIMBY (not in my backyard) mentality….

Blue Planet was a strong proponent of Big Wind, of powering O`ahu with industrial-scale wind facilities on Lana`i and Moloka`i and connecting them to an O`ahu via an undersea cable.

“There's a way to do it with minimal impact. The cable is the least of the environmental concerns ... if we have private investors who are interested in doing this, then by all means let's do it.”

Blue Planet also favored extended the undersea cable to the Big Island.

“Why are we tripping over our feet stopping ourselves from doing it? If New Zealand and Iceland can do it, why can’t we? ... We have all the geothermal you could possibly need. There is enough of it on the Big Island to feed all of Hawaii. Native resistance to tapping into Pele is what prevents us from building a cable and connecting that to O'ahu. That is kind of crazy right? It is kind of crazy.”

Some people wondered about these statements. After all, if “we can no longer afford the luxury of opposing renewable energy projects because of aesthetic preference” then why do we exclude selected areas from consideration? …

The strongest wind resource on O`ahu is the Ko`olau and Waianae mountain tops.

There are very strong winds just off ʻĀina Haina. Wind turbines could be placed at the super-rich Black Point community by Diamond Head, run through the coastal ʻĀina Haina waters, and come ashore at Hanauma Bay.

Tourists swimming at Hanauma Bay could be below giant turbines built into the bay.

These spots could easily produce massive amounts of renewable energy and they could show tourists that we are doing everything possible….

SA Editorial: Don’t repurpose prime ag lands

read … Blue Planet: Climate Change Trumps Environmental Issues

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