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Sunday, September 8, 2019
September 8, 2019 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:17 PM :: 2639 Views

The Fight Over Honolulu Vacation Rentals Begins

Should We Designate a School Zone on Judd Street?

City Pays Outside Lawyers to Keep Employees From Informing on Higher-ups

Shapiro: … the Council approved paying the San Francisco firm Farella Braun & Martel $225,000 more to shield city emails and documents seized by federal law enforcers, with only Councilwomen Kymberly Pine and Heidi Tsuneyoshi voting against. The firm got another $100,000 in March….

The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation has asked, unsuccessfully so far, for $300,000 to hire a different San Francisco law firm to fight federal subpoenas for minutes of its closed meetings.

These seamy dodges by the city in response to wide-ranging federal corruption investigations into its officials and agencies insult taxpayers by heaping exorbitant legal expenses on top of the incalculable cost of the wrongdoing that set off the investigations.

The administration and Council, which considered the latest request for outside attorneys in a closed meeting, have been notably vague about what records were seized in the execution of a January search warrant and which city employees are involved….

Outside specialists only help evade; the uncomfortable feeling is that hiring them is less about privacy or attorney-client privilege than monitoring what city employees tell investigators and deterring them from implicating higher-ups….

read … Honolulu Hale legal Shapiro:eagles flap about like Chicken Little

How Rail Can Squirm Past Federal Spending Limits

SA: … The federal overseers are not going to merely accept costs that exceed what’s projected in the recovery plan.

Bidding for the public-private partnership (“P3”) contract, controlling construction of the final City Center phase and some future aspect of rail operations, is the next big step, expected later this year, with the award to follow in January 2020, according to the FTA.

If, for example, the bids come in too high, that will surely spell more delays — which we can ill afford — as HART and city officials scramble to decide how to fill the financial gaps.

That could mean efforts to tap the public purse even more, which would be unacceptable; squeeze the project elsewhere for savings; or renegotiate sweeter terms for the contractor on the back end, making the operational aspect more lucrative.

In addition to completing the last four miles of the alignment, between Middle Street and the Ala Moana Center terminus, the P3 agreement will require the winning bidder to build a parking structure and transit hub at Pearl Highlands, enabling more commuters from Central Oahu to use the rail….

read … Rail can’t afford more missteps

DHHL, city land swap for rail stirs questions

SA: … The pending deal involves a nearly 56-acre Waipahu parcel that DHHL intends to give to the city in exchange for more than 50 acres the city owns in Kapolei.

The city, which has a licensing agreement to use the Waipahu parcel, already has constructed a rail maintenance and storage facility on the DHHL land.

But some beneficiaries say the planned trade short-changes the land trust that DHHL is supposed to manage for the benefit of those at least 50% Native Hawaiian.

The DHHL property, zoned residential, has an assessed value of more than $21 million, while the city parcel, zoned agricultural, is valued at less than $5 million, according to city property tax data.

“When you look at the numbers, it just doesn’t make sense,” said Blossom Feiteira, a beneficiary and Maui president of the Association of Hawaiians for Homestead Lands. “Why are they giving our trust lands away?”

The planned deal dates to 2006 when the Hawaiian Homes Commission, which oversees DHHL, gave its chairman permission to pursue a land exchange involving the two parcels.

The city wanted what was referred to as the Ewa Drum site for the rail project, and DHHL sought what was called the Varona Village site, adjacent to the department’s East Kapolei master planned community, for future development.

A memorandum of agreement was approved by the commission several years later for an exchange or sale, and the two sides eventually settled on an exchange. But they have yet to complete the transaction, partly because the appraisals haven’t been done and Department of the Interior (DOI) approval of the exchange is needed.

The unfinished deal brings to mind another DHHL land swap that has languished for years and made headlines recently because of the protest over the $1.4 billion telescope project on Hawaii island…. 

KITV: Hawaii property exchange seeks to aid Honolulu rail project

read … DHHL, city land swap for rail stirs questions

Caldwell Plan for Dillingham?  Let the next Mayor Figure it out

Borreca: … The 2-mile stretch between Iwilei and Middle streets is a mostly congested, four-lane tight fit of urban roadway in industrial Honolulu.

City officials estimate about 10,000 live along its sides. HART wants to slap the hulking, concrete, elevated rail line down the middle of the street while still allowing traffic on the boulevard.

Calling it traffic is a misnomer because “traffic” is defined as “vehicles moving on a road or public highway,” and if HART tries to build rail and insists that Dillingham remain open, no vehicles will be moving down that road. Vehicles will probably also not be moving down any adjacent roads, including Kokea, Alakawa, Waiakamilo or Puuhale.

Reports have already mentioned the problems that the Blood Bank Hawaii has with the looming construction, but Dillingham is also home to hundreds of mom-and-pop stores that are the very bedrock of Honolulu: Family Service Auto Repair, Gold Coin Foods, Wet Okole Car Seats, Eki Cyclery, Dillingham Saimin and Bob’s Bar-B-Que.

There also are churches, public schools and shopping centers all depending on public access via Dillingham.

Even Honolulu’s biggest rail booster, Mayor Kirk Caldwell, whose insistence on rail borders on the delusional, told HART that its plan is “not acceptable in its current form.”

Caldwell, in a report in Civil Beat, said: “The plan needs a lot more work, in particular regarding the impact utility relocation … will have on businesses and residents.”

Honolulu architect and rail critic Scott Wilson said HART’s initial briefing to city officials “is an example of HART trying to get out in front of a problem and yet not looking too far forward as to create major opposition to the project….

read … HART, mayoral hopefuls need real mitigations for rail-building traffic coming to Dillingham

$4M Plus Spent to Police Anti-Telescope Protests

SA: … so far, the bulk of the information on costs has come from the counties despite the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s repeated inquiries over the past two months to the AG’s office.

Hawaii County spent nearly $3.3 million through mid-July, most of which has gone to police working overtime. The Honolulu and Maui County police departments spent about $260,000 combined in overtime, travel and vehicle shipping.

The Attorney General’s Office has released some figures, including $166,000 in overtime costs for its own personnel for July. Another $452,000 was spent on equipment, supplies and transportation across multiple agencies.

These figures combined top $4 million….

read … Overall costs of Mauna Kea law enforcement remain hazy

Kim: No Police Action Set for Mauna Kea Monday

SA: … Opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope who are camped at the Mauna Kea Access Road are predicting law enforcement will move in as early as Monday to clear the road and the nearby encampment, but Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said today he is “pretty damn sure” there is no such action planned that soon.

In a call for reinforcements or kahea issued Friday night and shared thousands of times on social media, the protesters said they have heard from “multiple sources” that the clearing operation may begin as early as predawn Monday morning, and the Daniel K. Inouye Highway also known as Saddle Road may be closed as early as Sunday….

Kim said in an interview today he had in-depth discussions about Mauna Kea Thursday and Friday in connection with the clearing of an illegal structure near the protest camp, and no one said a word about such an operation.

“If I had money to bet, I’d bet anything I had that it won’t happen,” Kim said. “I don’t know how these rumors start. I hope you don’t call me Monday and say ‘You were wrong,’ but I don’t know anything about it. I have no idea of anything developing, really.”

He added: “I doubt anything like that would happen without me knowing about it. I mean, that would be our police.”…


read … TMT protesters summon re-enforcements, predicting police action at Mauna Kea

Disabled Exploited: Internships offer subminimum wages

SA: … The minimum wage excludes workers with disabilities, which can include old age. At the state level, this is authorized under Section 387-9, Hawaii Revised Statutes. At the federal level, it is Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended. People with disabilities and our allies have been working, ever since 1938, to try to end this practice. Recently, legislation has been considered to repeal these provisions at the state and federal levels.

Sheltered workshops are special, segregated work environments that specialize in hiring workers with disabilities. Not all of them pay subminimum wages, but they can obtain a Special Wage Certificate from the U.S. Department of Labor that allows them to pay less than minimum wage to workers with disabilities. The Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations certifies individual workers as being worthy of being paid subminimum wages.

Workshops can receive charitable donations, priority for government contracts, tax breaks and the opportunity to rent government-owned facilities for $1 annually. They receive funding from Medicaid for providing “prevocational services” to their workers, so they have a financial incentive to keep the workers in their workshops instead of transitioning them out. Disability rights leaders point out that the workshops have the funds to pay their workers, especially when the CEOs sometimes earn seven-figure incomes….


read … Internships offer subminimum wages

Abandoned Vehicles Cost Kauai $2,000 each

TGI: … This fiscal year, which began July 1, the Kauai Police Department has had 653 vehicles towed, and has more than 270 pending complaints.

During fiscal year 2017, the department handled the removal of 404 abandoned and derelict vehicles, and 498 in fiscal 2018.

Kauai taxpayers paid more than $411,000 for the handling and disposal of these abandoned and derelict vehicles in 2017, and around $423,00 in 2018. This year, the county has already spent some $491,000.

Each vehicle costs at least a few hundred dollars to remove, but that number can climb to as much as $2,000, depending upon the vehicle’s condition and location, according to KPD.

Moreover, these figures do not take into account payroll costs, and the time it takes for county personnel to deal with the matter.

read … Kauai: Abandoned vehicles on the rise

Privatization More Efficient for Hawaii County Hele On Bus System

HTH: … Resolution 304, to be heard Sept. 18, would give the department the authority to contract with one transportation vendor for two functions currently handled by two companies: provide drivers for county-owned buses and provide both drivers and buses for routes when there aren’t enough county buses to fill all the routes.

With the county’s diminishing supply of usable buses, the contract could be quite lucrative. On Friday, 18 of the 29 Hele-On routes were using contracted buses.

The current driver vendor, Polynesian Adventure Tours, made almost twice as much on the emergency fill-ins as it did on its regular driver contract during the fiscal year ending June 30.

The regular bus driver contract paid the privately owned tour company $2.86 million, compared to $5.22 million for the fill-in buses, according to the county Finance Department. The second vendor, Roberts Hawaii Tours, was paid $1.36 million for fill-in buses during the same period, bringing total emergency fill-in bus contracts to $6.58 million.

In comparison, the entire Mass Transit budget that year was $15.7 million. New buses run from $300,000 to $600,000 each.

The county has put out a request for proposals for two vans and four mini-buses, which are smaller buses of 25 seats or more. Those should be in the fleet by the first quarter of 2020 Carreira has said. The county also applied for a grant to purchase 10 40-foot buses.

Despite the availability of federal grants that would have provided buses while costing the county nothing, there were no grant applications or purchases since 2014, she said.

Carreira previously worked as operations manager for both Roberts Hawaii Tours and Polynesian Adventures prior to joining the county Nov. 1….

read … Blank check fix? Mass Transit admin asking for fast-track contract to right bus system

Hilarious: State Bureaucracy so Dense it Even Makes Marijuana Dispensaries Unprofitable

SA: … Two years after Hawaii’s first medical marijuana dispensary opened on Maui, the legal pot industry has yet to achieve profitability.

Since the start of the year, gross sales have been growing, with $2.3 million in statewide sales and 293 pounds of cannabis sold in July, up from $1.6 million and 203 pounds in January, according to new statistics from the state Health Department.

But the dispensaries are still waiting for a return on their investment.

For Maui Grown Therapies, the state’s first dispensary, which opened in August 2017 at 44 Paa St. in Kahului, gross revenue grew by 84% over the past two years, and the number of active patients increased 180%, the company said.

Maui Grown has invested $17 million since its inception, with startup costs including construction of an off-the-grid production facility that uses solar energy and an independent water system separate from the county’s.

“I don’t believe any of the licensees are profitable at this time,” said Maui Grown spokeswoman Teri Gorman. “It’s a new sector. We’re still experiencing operating losses. We were the first to begin, and it’s taken a long time for this program to get off the ground.”

There are now a dozen pot shops statewide run by eight licensees: five on Oahu, one on Kauai, two on Maui and four on Hawaii island. Maui’s other dispensary, Pono Life Maui, opened at 415 Dairy Road in Kahului in September 2017.

Because of the small number of dispensaries, the Health Department did not provide a breakdown of sales figures by county, for proprietary reasons.

Many of the dispensary operators started in the hole after significant delays. It took Maui Grown more than a year to open after the state allowed the legal sale of cannabis. Dispensaries weren’t able to sell pakalolo until the Health Department certified an independent laboratory to test the potency and purity of the drugs. There also were delays with the department’s installation of a “seed-to-sale” tracking system, which prevented licensees from beginning operations.

“We were already incurring operating losses during that time. It took quite a while before we had a lab fully certified to test the concentrate, so for months we were only able to sell flower,” Gorman said. “The business is not as robust as people might think. It was a sluggish start.”

Hawaiian Ethos, the last of the eight licensees selected by the state in 2016, finally opened in June on Hawaii island. It’s delayed opening was partially due to the lengthy regulatory and permitting process and the building of production and retail facilities, said spokeswoman Kea Keolanui….

read … Pakalolo profits have yet to light up in Hawaii

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