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Sunday, December 29, 2019
December 29, 2019 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:54 PM :: 2421 Views

Don't Sweep OHA Audit Under the Rug

Red Flags at OHA

Caught: OHA Audit Report Secrets Revealed

WSJ: Aloha Increasingly Means Goodbye Thanks to High Taxes

Hawaii Congressional Delegation How They Voted December 28, 2019

Rep Case Calls on FAA to Tighten Regulations After Deadly Helicopter Crash

Harry Kim Deal Allows Telescope Protesters to Move to the Mainland

SA: … The Mauna Kea Access Road was finally cleared of tents and protesters Saturday for the first time since mid-July, but the opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope vowed to shift the focus of their protest campaign to the mainland during a two-month pause in the standoff on the mountain.

The Onizuka Center for International Astronomy Visitor Information, better known as the Hale Pohaku Visitor Center, reopened on the access road Saturday for the first time since June, and the access road itself was fully reopened to all traffic except for construction equipment to work on the TMT project….

There have been some talks between the protesters and TMT representatives, but neither side will say whether those talks have been helpful. The protesters have said publicly they will not allow the $1.4 billion telescope to be built, while supporters of the TMT say the project obtained all of the necessary state and county permits, and has the right to proceed with construction.

Noe Noe Wong-Wilson, one of the protest leaders, said Saturday the pause in activity on the mountain offers TMT opponents an opportunity to engage in “a campaign to influence decision making” on the TMT issue on the mainland and in Hawaii. The stand-down on the mountain is “a welcome thing for us,” she said.

Among other activities, the TMT opponents are planning a major demonstration at the Hawaii state Capitol in Honolulu when the 2020 legislative session begins on Jan. 15.

Wong-Wilson said the protesters also will welcome visitors to Mauna Kea at the protest camp in an effort to teach tourists and others about the cultural significance of the mountain. That will include brochures that the TMT opponents plan to distribute.

“We think this is a great opportunity for us to educate everyone,” she said.

Activity on the mountain could taper off over the next 60 days, but Wong-Wilson said the TMT opponents are certain their supporters will respond if any attempt is made to resume construction.

“When and if we ever put out the call again for them to be here, they will be back in numbers,” she said. “We’re confident about that.”…

Big Q: What do you make of the two-month stand-down and road-clearing at Mauna Kea?

PH: Mauna Kea…Try Something Else

read … Mauna Kea road cleared as protesters shift focus

Ige Supplemental Budget: Jail Plan Designed to Fail

SA Editorial: … One primary question to be answered is how to make needed changes to the state’s correctional system…

The state would need congressional approval to buy the largely vacant Federal Detention Center, located near the airport, as a replacement facility for the island’s critically overcrowded jail, Oahu Community Correctional Center on Dillingham Boulevard…

(Translation: Ain’t gonna happen.)

While waiting for an answer, Ige wants to fund an alternative: building a new jail near the existing Halawa prison complex. The governor may have trouble prying this money loose from legislators.

The administration is keeping within the $2.331 billion construction budget approved for the current fiscal year. But the capital improvements for fiscal 2021 would cost $2.624 billion, $1.458 billion more than what had been enacted.

Among the new requests is $20 million in consulting fees to “acquire or to construct” the replacement for OCCC. Lawmakers, already leery of unsupported spending here, still have too many valid questions to make such a big allotment for consultation….

it seems doubtful that the lawmakers who guard the state pursestrings, including House Finance Chairwoman Sylvia Luke, are going to feel comfortable handing over $20 million to consultants when it’s still not clear what the needed jail capacity will be. The Legislature turned down a similar request last session, and that was for only $5 million.

If Ige hopes to win them over, he will need better information on options. Ideally, the newly created commission would play a role in seeing that the pretrial population and the overall corrections census are managed properly, but that’s barely been launched….

Also on the capital improvements list are public-school and University of Hawaii facilities projects, amounting to $220 million and $86.8 million, respectively….

Further, Ige is requesting $200 million to widen the eastbound side of the H-1 freeway to six lanes, from Waikele to Halawa….

On the operational side, Ige’s new proposed blueprint estimates $146 million more to be spent in general funds in 2020 than the state will collect in revenue; assuming no new taxes. The deficit spending would hit $288 million for the following year.

This is discouraging, considering that there will certainly be a push for other big-ticket items. Ige and the state Board of Education are seeking an increase in pay to benefit teachers ….

This surely will factor into collective bargaining for union workers across the board, something the state must consider now even if that bill won’t come due immediately….

Related: Grassroot: Ige’s fiscal 2021 budget ‘unsustainable’

Related: Act 268 Hawaii Unfunded Liabilities Plan: Pot of Gold for Corrupt Union Leaders

read … Questions loom over Gov. David Ige’s budget

Honolulu Dance Craze: The Perp Walk

Shapiro: … >> A federal jury took only a day to convict former Police Chief Louis Kealoha and his former prosecutor wife, Katherine, for corruption. It set a new speed record for unplugging a power couple.

>> City Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro and Corporation Counsel Donna Leong took paid leave after being named targets of the federal probe. You know we’re in trouble when the hottest municipal dance craze is the perp walk.

>> The Oahu rail project also drew federal subpoenas, as the city sought public input on Hawaiian names for train stations. Possibilities were endless: Auwe, Pilau, Kukae, Pupule, Lolo, Pilikia …

>> The Legislature OK’d a new $350 million Halawa stadium as part of a public-private development to include housing, hotels and retail. It’s never to soon to set the stage for the next federal grand jury….

read … Shapiro: Our emperors and empresses had no clothes in 2019

Hawaii County GET increase to take effect Jan. 1—Another $25M taken from taxpayers to feed Government Unions

HTH: … For the second time in two years, the new year will bring another increase to the county’s general excise tax.

Starting on Jan. 1, the county GET surcharge will increase from 0.25% to 0.50% and will be extended until the end of 2030….

The county surcharge is in addition to the state’s existing 4% GET tax rate, bringing the total tax rate to 4.712%, up from the current rate of 4.4386%.

The county surcharge currently brings in about $25 million to county funds, and is estimated to double that amount to $50 million when it increases next week.

Mayor Harry Kim said the extra funds will be spent on (insert excuses here) ….

Council members in support of the increase noted that the county has little control over its current spending — an estimated 75% of its $518 million annual spending goes to payroll and other benefits for county employees.

“One of the reasons we are in this position with our budget is how much money is committed to the employees of the county. … We’re taking care of the constituents who work for the county,” said Kona Councilwoman Rebecca Villegas in March…

most public testimony about the increase this year was negative. Testifiers were skeptical that the increased cost of living they would face as a result of the increase would demonstrably improve their quality of life. The tax is charged on nearly all products on the island, save for federal food assistance programs, prescription drugs and prosthetic devices.

The county surcharge imposes taxes on the state tax itself — which imposes a four-cent tax on every dollar spent on eligible products — and would increase the cost of a $100 grocery purchase by 52 cents, for a total of $104.52, counting the state tax….

read … GET increase to take effect Jan. 1

Hawaii Electric Car Registration Fee Jumps by $50

AP: …The new year will bring new charges for some owners of electric vehicles, as an increasing number of states seek to plug in to fresh revenue sources to offset forgone gas taxes.  In Hawaii, the charge will be $50….

read … Hawaii joins states charging more for electric cars as new laws kick in

Hawaii Roadsides Too Junk-Filled for Homeless?

Cataluna: … There could be a contest for the most egregiously untended stretch of roadside, but a top contender has to be the H-1 westbound King Street off-ramp. Taking that exit is like flying into a portal, a weed-tunnel passage that takes you from urban Hono­lulu to some Kipapa Gulch wilderness in just a matter of seconds before depositing you back in the cement city near the Hawaiian Humane Society….

The way Hawaii continues to chase after tourism, you’d thinking keeping the roadways looking nice would be more of a priority. Whether it’s Nimitz or the H-1, there’s no way to go from the airport to a place where tourists spend money that isn’t ugly, and not just folksy-ugly but forgotten ugly, like the remnants of dying Rust Belt towns where factories have closed and there’s no one around to haul away junk cars, mow the sides of the roadways and keep up appearances. Hawaii is in the business of showing off and making money as a destination. Hawaii should be able to keep up appearances.

the profusion of roadside weed growth hides the broken shopping carts, ripped tarps and trash piles that build up along the thoroughfares, and if tall grass is clogging sidewalks, that could be a deterrent to homeless encampments taking root….

read … Cataluna: A drive on the wild side right in town

Government contributes to problem of illegal dumping in Waimanalo

SA: … Starting in the mid-1980s, because of high transportation costs and dumping fees, commercial construction debris destined for Lualualei too often wound up in illegal landfills in our valley. Over the last 40 years, commercial and industrial waste, stolen and abandoned cars, and trucks and trash are dumped several times a week in the valley. This trash comes from all over — Waimanalo is the closest “country” from town, Hawaii Kai and Kailua.

Commercial operators are one of the primary culprits. Instead of paying a commercial fee to dump waste — including asbestos, pesticides and other hazardous waste — it is cheaper and easier to drive to the windward side, dump the material on a dark back road or pay a state lessee a few dollars.

Inexplicably, the city and the state contribute to this problem in two ways: by not inspecting and maintaining public land; and not enforcing existing rules.

An example of government’s failure to inspect and maintain is the Waimanalo 60 MG Reservoir Emergency Spillway Stream (Kahawai Stream), a natural waterway that is the reservoir safety-valve in the event of overtopping or breach.

The state Department of Agriculture (DOA) has not inspected or maintained the Spillway Stream in the 30 years of the reservoir’s existence.

During heavy rains in recent years, the stream twice overflowed when it became congested with dumped debris and natural green waste, blocking a culvert, overtopping a bridge and stranding residents. The community cleared the debris with government help, but the problem continues to pose a danger when there is an emergency water release from the reservoir.

Despite community requests and the tragic lessons of Kauai’s Ka Loko Dam disaster, the DOA still does not inspect or maintain the Emergency Spillway Stream in Waimanalo Valley….

read … Government contributes to problem of illegal dumping in Waimanalo

Squatters Take Over Wahiawa Homeless Shelter Site While DPP Dithers

HNN: … just last year, a nonprofit group Alea Bridge began building a homeless shelter next door.

She said she’s not against helping the homeless but worries that the unoccupied, former portable classrooms are not only an eyesore but are unsafe for nearby residents.

“I’m afraid one of these days if a fire starts, we’re right next door. Or if we have a windstorm, the whole thing is going to fall on us," said Honda, who turns 98 on June 2.

Alea Bridge’s Resource and Navigation Center will provide showers, hygiene and laundry facilities.

Back in 2017, the state Legislature gave the nonprofit group funding to buy the land and provide outreach services for Wahiawa’s homeless population.

The center was supposed to open by this summer. But not only has it been delayed, it’s not even hooked up for sewer, water and electricity.

Alea Bridge said the delays were caused by hold-ups in getting city building permits.

In response to complaints by the Hondas, the company said it removed debris and placed no-trespassing signs to keep out squatters.

“Unfortunately, at this time we are unable to make any renovations, alterations or even move the structures until we have a permit in hand,” said Alea Bridge’s Executive Director Nicky Winter….

Meanwhile: $4 million coming for Kukuiola, Village 9 road project

read … Wahiawa residents say planned homeless shelter is unsafe



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