Auditor Rips Rail Oversight: DAGS 'Busy Work Gives False Sense of Assurance'
Environmental Review for Aloha Stadium Tear-Down Begins
Tourist Numbers Up, Spending Down (again)
Busted: Former ILWU Boss to Rat out other Criminals in Union?
HNN: Former high-ranking ILWU official Nate Lum pleaded guilty Thursday to identity theft in federal court.
(With Mehau and Inouye dead, and Hanabusa, Kaneshiro, and Kealoha sidelined, there’s nobody to stop this kind of stuff any more.)
Lum also admitted he failed to file federal tax returns. But under a plea deal, prosecutors agreed to drop a theft charge against him.
Sources said the case against Lum is connected to a broader federal racketeering investigation targeting the waterfront.
“Most likely, this is going to lead to subsequent indictments," said defense attorney Myles Breiner.
“The fact is that the Longshoremens’ union has always been a target. They’ve been subject to a number of investigations.”
The 61-year-old Lum previously served as division director for the ILWU, where he once earned more $200,000 a year. That union represents more than 1,000 dock workers, giving him considerable clout on the waterfront.….
He faces a mandatory two years in prison for the identity theft charge. The theft charge that’s being dismissed is punishable by up to 10 years.
(Translation: He’s singing like a bird.)
His sentencing is scheduled for July 30.
(Question: How could that possibly be enough time to tell all the tales?)
read … Under plea deal, former high-ranking union official pleads guilty to identity theft
Legislators Pass Death Tax, Internet Sales Tax
CB: … Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, is looking for new ways to raise cash.
Dela Cruz recently chided Gov. David Ige for not proposing his own revenue enhancers, but the senator isn’t waiting around for that to happen.
Almost a dozen options are under consideration. Dela Cruz is the sponsor or a co-sponsor of many of them, and Sylvia Luke, chairwoman of the House Finance Committee, is supporting some of them in the other chamber.
Two measures, Senate Bill 1361, which would increase the tax rate for estates valued at more than $10 million, and Senate Bill 396, which would make more internet-based sales subject to taxation, have already passed the Legislature and been sent to the governor to sign. They will be enacted unless he vetoes them….
Senate Bill 380, a proposed tax on the resort fees charged by hotels, meanwhile, edged closer to passage Thursday and Luke said she expected it to arrive soon on the governor’s desk….
Other proposals include new or additional taxes on short-term rentals advertised on platforms like Airbnb, on commercial leases, on real estate investment trusts (known as REITs) and on time shares….
Tom Yamachika, president of the Hawaii Tax Foundation, said it would give Hawaii one of the highest estate taxes in the nation and likely cause what he called a “brain drain” as wealthy people move away to escape it.
Jared Watumull, a scion of the Watumull real estate fortune, told lawmakers it would create an “undue hardship on small business owners and farmers and their ability to pass their business to their heirs.” He suggested instead that the state should eliminate the estate tax altogether….
Last year Hawaii began taxing goods bought on the internet. Senate Bill 396 would expand the tax to include goods from companies that only use firms like Amazon as what the bill defines as “marketplace facilitators.” In other words, according to Yamachika, consumers would pay sales tax not just on items they buy from Amazon itself but also from companies that use Amazon as a platform to sell their own goods….
Senate Bill 1292 would require operators of short-term rentals to pay the transient accommodation tax, with the platforms that host the listings acting as the tax collection agent on behalf of the state. Owners who fail to register with the state Department of Taxation would face citation and monetary fines….
Real estate investment trusts are another possible target for the Legislature. Senate Bill 301 would disallow the dividend deduction customary for properties held as securities by real estate investment trusts. Under federal law, REITs disperse their income to their shareholders, which allows them to avoid corporate tax in the locations of their properties, although shareholders pay taxes on that income in their home states or countries….
The other proposed tax hikes include Senate Bill 395, introduced by Dela Cruz and Keith-Agaran, which would impose a conveyance tax on some short-term leases; Senate Bill 382, introduced by a group of senators including Dela Cruz, which would increase taxes tied to time-share management fees; and Senate Bill 495, introduced by Dela Cruz, which would change language in state income tax rules so that some out-of-state businesses could be subject to taxation….
read … Some Hawaii Taxes And Fees Are Almost Certain To Rise
SB301: REIT Tax Will Cost State a Fortune
PBN: … This year, Senate Bill 301 — which would eliminate a corporate income tax deduction on dividends paid to shareholders by real estate investment trusts that own the largest hotels, office buildings and shopping centers in Hawaii — has gone farther than any of its previous iterations….
HPR: Hawaiʻi Move To Strip Tax Deduction From REITs Gains Traction
read … Cost a Fortune
Maui: 100% Against Mileage Tax
MN: …All 13 residents opposed a state Department of Transportation proposal to replace the 16-cent-a-gallon state fuel tax with a vehicle-miles-traveled charge to pay for new roads and repairs at a meeting Wednesday….
Residents in rural Paia, Haiku and Upcountry who attended the meeting said they felt as though they were being penalized for living in rural areas or taking long commutes to work. There also were questions about how the fee would work with tourists.
Kula resident Patrick “Kaeo” Ornellas said that the road-usage charge “is not going to work right now” because it would hurt working-class families and the senior population on fixed incomes….
The rate of the road-usage charge would be based on a typical car that gets an average of 22 miles per gallon. Drivers who fit within the that mile-per-gallon “sweet spot” of 22 mpg would essentially be paying the same amount as their neighbor, Urada said.
He estimated the median cost to be around $8 per 1,000 miles.
“Theoretically, it doesn’t matter if you’re paying for the road distance charge or if you’re paying for the gas tax. The cost remains the same,” said Urada. “If you have a gas guzzler, you might actually be paying a little bit less with a road-distance charge.”…
Urada said “But unfortunately, for us to do that, we need money. That’s the bottom line.”…
read … Need Money
Faculty union blasts UH president
HNN: … During a contentious Board of Regents meeting Thursday, members of the University of Hawaii’s faculty union blasted school President David Lassner for his handling of proposed budget cuts that would have forced dozens to lose their jobs.
The message from faculty members was clear: UH needs a president with a backbone — someone who’s transparent about the process but willing to fight for the school and those who make it run.
The budget reduction proposal that was debated last week called for nearly $30 million in cuts over two years, a move that would result in the permanent removal of 121 faculty positions at UH Manoa and another 100 unfilled jobs across the University of Hawaii system.
Lassner’s critics on Thursday said they were angry about the way he responded to that proposal, accusing him of not taking an immediate public stand against lawmakers….
A UH spokesperson said the administration sent out a system-wide email within 24 hours of learning about the cuts.
“We did get the cuts reversed,” said Brent Suyama, who works in the university’s communications department….
read … Faculty union blasts UH president
Kauai Council pretends to be divided on raises
KGI: Kauai County Council members deliberated on the prospect of increasing the pay for some county officials, including themselves, for nearly two hours before deferring a vote until the April 10 meeting….
Councilman Arthur Brun was (wisely) not in attendance for the meeting Wednesday morning….
“We need to show our people that we’re operating officially and tightly as possible,” said KipuKai Kuali‘i. “How can we be giving raises right now — big raises, to the top positions? It would be absurd. The people would go crazy.”
(Translation: “I need to be one of the nay vote minority.”)
Councilman Luke Evslin had another view.
“Our motive here is not to necessarily save money — there’s no profit margin for us to look at,” he said. “How do we measure an effective police chief, whose training methods and management results in him putting out a fire quicker and saving somebody’s possessions. We can’t measure that on a financial statement.”
(Translation: I can get away with voting ‘aye’.)
Council Vice Chair Ross Kagawa said the proposal for raises was “poor timing.”
(Translation: ‘What do I get for voting this up?)’
Because of Brun’s absence, Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro suggested that if the vote was split 3-3, the council defer the decision until all seven council members were present. (See how this works?) The resolution faces a 60-day deadline and must be approved no later than May 6 in order for the pay raises in the first two parts of the bill to go into effect by July 1.
read … Kauai Council pretends to be divided on raises
Fraudster Gets 30 days Jail for Ripping off Charter School
KGI: …For Dr. Kani “Dr. B.” Blackwell, one of the founders of the defrauded school, the sentence was “a slap in the face.”
Blackwell, an adjunct professor with the University of Hawaii, had been in charge of overseeing the finances of an organization set up to raise money for the charter school, then still in conception.
According to Blackwell, Figaroa volunteered to act as treasurer for the nonprofit. She agreed to let him do so, but later became suspicious of Figaroa when he began concealing the details of the organization’s bank transactions, having financial statements sent first to his office and later his home.
Blackwell said that in four months — from mid-May to mid-September 2016 — Figaroa was able to clear 39 checks, transferring funds meant for school supplies and other educational necessities into his personal bank account or using the money to cover the operating costs of a business he owns and operates.
Of the $50,538 worth of withdrawals, Blackwell said Figaroa “redeposited” about $20,000 and paid back about $6,000, leaving the nonprofit’s account short about $25,000.
Blackwell attended Figaroa’s sentencing Thursday, along with about 10 other people affiliated with the school, in hopes of closing the book on a three-year episode she said has been “very stressful and aggravating.”
“It just seems unfair,” Blackwell said in an interview Thursday afternoon. Blackwell said she understood why Figaroa’s sentence was relatively light but still feels he got off easy.
“I have never seen any remorse expressed by Mr. Figaroa and I fear he is still a danger to our community,” she said….
read … Man sentenced in fraud case
Developer Builds Affordable Units Despite City Obstacles
SA: …A 50-year-old affordable rental home complex in Moanalua received a blessing Thursday following the addition of nearly 500 new midprice homes.
The owner of Moanalua Hillside Apartments held the blessing as part of a grand-opening ceremony for the $120 million project, which took three years to construct while overcoming challenges that included partial City Council opposition over traffic concerns and a city water system tunnel below the property.
“The path to revitalizing the Moanalua Hillside Apartments community and adding 491 workforce rental units has been challenging,” said Michele Aronson, a senior vice president of Douglas Emmett Inc. “Quite honestly, there were times where I wasn’t quite sure we were going to get across the goal line.”….
read … They are really against affordable housing
Waikiki Homeless Stab Tourists Again and Again, Defecate on Beach
SA: …Waikiki Neighborhood Board Chairman Bob Finley agreed, saying he recently got a call from a 92-year-old woman complaining about homeless people blocking the steps to her building. Finley said he also gets complaints about homeless people “moving their bowels on the beach” or “screaming obscenities.”
Jessica Lani Rich, Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii president and CEO, said a homeless man in February made an unprovoked and brutal attack on a visitor who was taking a smoke break outside one of Waikiki’s major hotels.
“When I visited him in the hospital, he was crying because he was in so much pain. This man, after being in the hospital for two weeks, is now on permanent disability,” Rich said.
Rich said VASH has previously assisted visitors who were attacked. In one instance, Rich said, the visitor was stabbed in the back of her neck while waiting to cross Kuhio Avenue on her birthday. Rich also recalled assisting a woman who was in Hawaii to attend her daughter’s wedding and was assaulted near Duke’s Lane and Kalakaua Avenue….
read … Homelessness dominates public safety concerns at Waikiki conference
City Contractor Violates Agreement, Feeds Homeless at Kakaako Makai
SA: … A Kaimuki couple with a new city contract to provide mobile hot showers for Oahu’s homeless are defying the city in two ways: by continuing to operate twice a month next to the Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center and by regularly feeding about 50 homeless people in the area.
(Really Obvious Idea: Terminate this contract.)
Danica Fong-Shoji had two words to describe the city’s prohibition on offering hot showers and food to homeless people in a public park that is the epicenter of Kakaako’s homeless problem:
“It’s dumb,” she said….
WRONG. Feeding shelter refusers is dumb. If they want to eat for free they can go to the shelter.
Big Q: Do you agree with people handing out food at homeless encampments? – 66% ‘NO’
read … Tent City