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Friday, January 24, 2020
January 24, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:34 PM :: 2392 Views

Tailspin! How to defuse Hawaii's $88 billion debt bomb

Campbell HS: DoE Lawyers Fight Female Athletes Over Technicalities

DoI Micronesia and US Territories: 2019 Accomplishments

U.S. Ferry Systems Soaked by Maritime Protectionism

Week One: 4,161 Bills and Resolutions Introduced in Legislature 

FTA “Anxious” About Rail P3 Cost

CB: … Caldwell, Anderson, Manahan and Martyn were in Washington to update FTA officials on the status of Honolulu’s $9 billion commuter rail line, which has struggled with construction delays, cost overruns and mismanagement. The project is now the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation by the U.S. Justice Department.

In an interview with Civil Beat, Caldwell said the meeting was part of an update the city provides to FTA each year and was mostly about “information sharing.”

“There’s no real news,” Caldwell said. “It was an update from them and us on how things are going. It was informative and helpful.”

One topic that was discussed, Caldwell said, is the creation of a public-private partnership to build the final leg of the system into downtown Honolulu. The final bid price is one of the largest unknowns for the project and could change the scope of the cost.

Caldwell said the city is anxious to have a final answer on the contract. And he’s not the only one.

Anderson said the FTA likewise expressed some anxiety about the final construction contract. Officials also worried about the continued delays in getting the system up and running.

The original start date for full service was supposed to be Jan. 31, 2020. Now city officials estimate that the earliest the line will be completed is December 2025. The FTA believes it’s more realistic the line will be done September 2026.

“The FTA shared their concerns with us regarding the schedule slippage, and I share those concerns,” Anderson said. “These are concerns that FTA has raised for some time now so it wasn’t new. I feel that the FTA is certainly aware of the problems that we face.”

He said FTA officials did not ask about the ongoing criminal investigation….

read … Caldwell Talks Homelessness, HUD and Honolulu Rail In Washington DC

HART: Nan Now Seven Months Behind (Latest Revised) Schedule—Delay Could Impact P3 Bids

CB: …Rail’s remaining utility relocation work through Honolulu’s urban core is now seven months behind schedule, according to official estimates.

If it doesn’t speed up, the lag could have a ripple effect that impacts future rail line construction through Kalihi, downtown and Kakaako — potentially causing more delays and driving costs even higher, project officials worry.

Some 7% of the complex effort to get the maze of sewer, telephone and voltage lines buried underground and hanging overhead out of rail’s path is done. Project leaders had expected 30% to be finished by now….

As many as three unidentified groups are vying for the rail project’s last major construction contract, as well as a deal to operate the system during its first 30 years, under a public-private partnership with HART and the city.

They’re following the utility relocation progress closely and meeting with HART officials as they continue to assemble their bid prices, Robbins said.

HART has also given the bidders target dates on when they can expect to have access to certain stretches of the rail path, and they’re using that to help calculate their bid prices, project officials said….

Traffic plans aren’t the only outstanding issues for the utility relocations — Kosich and other officials also flagged 15 parcels that have yet to be acquired. Kosich also noted incomplete design work for the relocations….

read … HART Struggles To Keep Critical Utility Work On Schedule

Familiar solutions from Hawaii state leaders

PBN: … Confronted with Hawaii’s dire affordability crisis, Gov. David Ige and the state Legislature united as one on the opening day of the legislative session to announce a bold solution: growing the size and cost of state government while increasing the dues-paying membership of government labor unions.

That’s not what they said, but those will be the most certain outcomes of their No. 1 proposal of expanding state-run early education. Extending the state’s monopoly on education into pre-Kindergarten has been a dream of state leaders for decades, I assume the affordability crisis is their best shot at doing something they’ve always wanted to do anyway….

read …  Familiar solutions from Hawaii state leaders

Amid rematch bid, Republican Sam Slom accuses Chang of ‘socialist agenda’

HNN: … Slom criticized Chang on his housing plan modeled after Singapore’s system, in which the state would build dense condominiums on state land near rail stations without taxpayer subsidies then sell each unit with a 99-year lease.

“He admittedly had a socialist agenda from the very beginning and before that,” Slom added….

read … Amid rematch bid, Republican Sam Slom accuses incumbent of ‘socialist agenda’

85% of Ewa Movers want out of Ewa

SA: … There’s the airplane noise, the sprawl of tightly packed suburban neighborhoods and, perhaps worst of all, the long haul to work.

Most commuters in Ewa hit heavy rush-hour traffic on the main artery, Fort Weaver Road, even before they face the dreaded congestion of the H-1 freeway, the state’s busiest highway.

No wonder 85% of the people in the Ewa area who plan to move over the next few years say they want to relocate to a different part of the island.

That’s the word from the latest statewide survey on housing conducted for the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp. and the state’s four counties for use in planning for future housing needs….

LINK: State_Hawaii-Housing-Planning-Study.pdf

read … Ewa is tops in people surveyed wanting to move elsewhere

Hawaii Road Usage Charge Penalizes Fuel Efficiency-DoT Lying About Declining Fuel Tax Revenues

CB: … Can a progressive tax be environmentally regressive? Yes, if drivers of more fuel efficient cars are generally wealthier than those driving less fuel efficient vehicles….

The road usage tax proposed by the Hawaii Department of Transportation provides a perfect example of this dichotomy. But regardless of tax progressivity, the road usage tax is clearly environmentally unfriendly.

HDOT recently sent out invitations to the public soliciting input on transitioning from our current tax on each gallon of gasoline sold to a road usage tax based instead on miles driven. The rationale given was that more fuel efficient cars such as hybrids and electrics have led to declining gasoline sales and reduced tax receipts for the state and counties as a result.

While gasoline purchases may indeed trend lower in the future, the evidence to date is not conclusive. The Hawaii Department of Taxation reports that consumption has fallen 1% since 2017, but has increased 3.4% since 2015 ….

read … Hawaii Road Usage Charge Penalizes Fuel Efficiency

Big Oil Carbon Credit Plan Would Hit Hawaii Hard

CN: … Crowding around the ever-growing carbon tax drum circle, major oil companies are rubbing elbows with college students and economists.

The Climate Leadership Council’s proposal to charge electricity providers, oil and gas drillers, refiners and chemical plant operators a starting $40 per ton fee, or tax, on carbon emissions would hit Americans in the pocketbook, raising gasoline prices by 36 cents per gallon, according to its founder Ted Halstead.

Electric bills also would go up. Driving habits would change, especially for residents of Hawaii and California, where gas prices are already over $3.50 per gallon.

But under the council’s plan, all the taxes would be returned to the public as quarterly dividends. Halstead says a family of four would get $2,000 a year and the dividend would grow as the fee increases by 5% per year…. 

(IQ Test: Are you looking forward to receiving those dividends?)

IM: "The soil`s capacity to hold carbon is so large ... we should be paid to do it.

read … Hit Hawaii Hard

Bill package addresses wind farms in Hawaii

SA: … A host of bills looking to address utility-scale wind energy projects near residential areas in Hawaii has been introduced for this year’s legislative session.

Gil Riviere (D, Heeia-Laie-Waialua) introduced seven bills, which range from providing preferential electricity rates for those who live near the power plants to giving the governor the authority to terminate the Na Pua Makani wind project on the North Shore.

The bills appear to be a response to the project and the opposition of many residents of Kahuku, which is part of District 23, which Riviere represents. Senate Bill 3051 would give Gov. David Ige the ability to terminate Na Pua Makani, which consists of eight 568-foot turbines many residents believe are too close to homes and schools….

read … Bill package addresses wind farms in Hawaii

Senators Delay Vote After Grilling Aila As Head Of Hawaiian Home Lands

CB: … Aila had support from various Native Hawaiian non-profit organizations, heads of state departments and many residents across the state. But some residents of Hawaiian Homes associations opposed his nomination.

Even if he gains the recommendation of the Senate panel, Aila must still clear a vote by the full 25-member Senate.

The committee room in the State Capitol basement was packed with testifiers Thursday. More than 350 pages of written testimony were sent to the senators before the hearing….

Supporters cited projects Aila has moved forward like Ulu Ke Kukui, which receives ohana zone funds for transition housing; the Nanakuli Village Center, an affordable housing development; and planning for the former Bowl-O-Drome site in Moiliili, where DHHL plans to build a high-rise….

Senators spent about an hour questioning Aila on progress he’s made as an interim director.

Kahele and Sen. Kurt Fevella, the chamber’s lone Republican, questioned why the department has been slow to remove a rancher with 300 head of cattle that have occupied lands on the Big Island for more than a year….

The committee also took up Ige’s nomination of Tyler Gomes, a newcomer to Hawaii politics, as the deputy director of DHHL. The committee also deferred that decision.

Senators’ questions for Gomes centered around how he would better involve those on the waitlist in planning decisions, as well as how the Hawaiian Homes Commission determines what lands it doesn’t need for building homes.

They spent over an hour grilling him on his opinions of the future of DHHL, on technical aspects of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act and on legal cases affecting DHHL in state history….

But Gomes caught some criticism from some testifiers just for being associated with Aila. Many who testified had no idea who Gomes was before the meeting….

read … Senators Delay Vote After Grilling Aila As Head Of Hawaiian Home Lands

$8.3M -- Hawaii County working on new deal for state reimbursement for TMT-related costs

HTH: … Although the access road is, for now, open to the public and the police have stepped back their Saddle Road enforcement, the state and counties together accumulated more than $8.3 million in expenses between July and October.

Those expenses were accrued with an understanding that the county would be reimbursed by the state, and Gov. David Ige promised the county as much and signed a memorandum agreeing to a deal in November. However, the County Council rejected the deal in December after the text of the deal had not been revealed to the council beforehand.

Since then, county officials have worked to amend the terms of the deal to make them more palatable, although that process has been murky at best.

“I’m not sure what form it’s going to take,” said council Chairman Aaron Chung. “I know it will be a resolution to accept something. I don’t know if that will be a new deal or just a grant.”

Chung said the new deal is being crafted by the county administration, not the council, so he doesn’t know what it will specifically entail. However, he guessed that the new agreement will reimburse the council only for the sum accrued — the previous deal was for $10 million, more than the total law enforcement costs.

The extra money, along with a condition requiring the county to enter a five-year agreement with the state to determine the usage of the funds, sat poorly with the council members, Chung said, who didn’t want to agree to terms and conditions they did not understand.

“If it’s an out-and-out reimbursement, I’d be comfortable with that,” Chung said. “Although I can’t speak for the other members.”

Mayor Harry Kim said that a new deal has been sent back to the state to be reviewed by the state attorney general….

read … County working on new deal for state reimbursement for TMT-related costs

$15K daily fine -- BLNR Threatens Demolition of South Kona home facing fine for illegal vacation rental in conservation district

HTH: … The home, situated on 0.3 acres near the bottom of Kaohe Road in the Kona Paradise subdivision of Kaohe, has apparently been used as a transient vacation for more than a decade. That’s despite a conservation district permit granted allowing for the residence to be built but prohibiting such activity, documents submitted to the state Board of Land and Natural Resources show….

The staff recommended a monetary fine of $15,000 and administrative costs of $2,000 be assessed against the Killeens by the board.

The Board of Land and Natural Resources is set to take up the matter during its monthly meeting today in Honolulu.

Further recommendations included a directive from the board that such activities cease on the property and all advertisements that promote transient rental accommodations there be removed and that in the event the Killeens do not abide by the board’s order, the landowner be fined $15,000 per day until compliance is reached, among others. The staff also recommended revoking the 1990 permit should the Killeens continue to use the single-family residence for rental or commercial purposes….

read … South Kona homeowner facing fine for illegal vacation rental in conservation district

County wants to seize, sell site of former homeless camp to pay fines

HTH: … The former site of a homeless camp in downtown Hilo may be sold off to pay for fines the owners owe the county.

In a motion filed in Circuit Court earlier this month, representatives of Hawaii County requested a court order that would allow the county to seize and sell a lot on Punahoa Street, between Ponahawai and Mamo streets in downtown Hilo.

For nearly a year, an unpermitted homeless camp was located on that lot, in defiance of county orders, until the camp was torn down by county workers in November.

Since the beginning of 2019, the owners of the lot — Big Island residents Elizabeth Jeri Rose and Michael Ravenswing — accumulated thousands of dollars in fines for failing to remove the unpermitted structures.

According to the motion, Rose and Ravenswing now owe $177,000 in fines to the county, although Hawaii County Corporation Counsel Joe Kamelamela said they could owe more, because the owners are also responsible for the cost of clearing the site.

Records from the county’s Real Property Tax Division assess the value of the lot at $136,900. Kamelamela said Rose and Ravenswing will still be responsible for the difference between the lot’s value and the amount they owe.

The records indicate the property was last sold in 2018 for $135,000….

read … County wants to seize, sell site of former homeless camp

Guns found at Hibiscus Drive not registered to homeowner or late husband, Chief Ballard says

SA: … Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard said today that multiple firearms have been recovered from the debris at 3015 Hibiscus Drive, but checks of the names of people who lived at the Diamond Head home showed that the weapons were not registered to the homeowner or her late husband.

Ballard told reporters today that the firearms have not been traced to an owner, and couldn’t say what kind of weapons were recovered. She said the items recovered were really “burnt out carcasses, for lack of a better term, of firearms.”…

A house guest who stayed in the Hibiscus Drive home recalled there was a storage locker filled with weapons under a bed that had belonged to Cain’s late husband, Raymond Cain, but Ballard said police have recovered only “a few” burnt weapons “but not the huge cache that the friend was saying.”

Ballard said police have not yet been able to determine if the weapons were registered to anyone, but said Cain and her deceased husband had not registered any firearms….

read …  Guns found at Hibiscus Drive not registered to homeowner or late husband, Chief Ballard says

38 Gun Control Bills Moving in Legislature

HNN: … Ballard said. “If someone passes away ... the guns are going to need to be registered.”

There are now 38 gun proposals moving through the Legislature ― and more than a dozen were introduced since the weekend shooting….

“Most of these laws are a knee-jerk reaction,” said Namiki Roberts, of the Hawaii Firearms Coalition.  “It only hurts law-abiding gun owners. You are putting more burdens on gun owners who are following the law.” …

Legislators are also all but certain to consider mental health proposals in the wake of the tragedy.

Ballard has called for a new “tough love” approach for those with severe mental illnesses who refuse to seek help and may pose a danger.

Hanel had exhibited signs of mental illness and his neighbors say he’d terrorized them for years….

“We want take a look at filling in the gaps and getting treatment options so instead of us taking folks to jail and then they get released back maybe transition into treatment facilities," she said.

“This is the time we need to do something.”…

read … In wake of Diamond Head tragedy, police chief seeks to tighten loopholes in gun laws

Caldwell: Soft on Homelessness Crowd Killing Homeless

CB: … Caldwell also highlighted a new Honolulu Police Department program that was implemented last month in his hometown of Waipahu in Central Oahu.

The program works in part by having HPD officers take a zero-tolerance approach to enforcing homelessness-related crimes, such as violations of park closure rules.

Instead of issuing citations or making arrests, however, the officers will drive a homeless individual to a nearby temporary encampment where they can get the help they need, whether it’s a place to sleep or other social services.

Caldwell defended his approach to so-called “compassionate disruption,” a term he coined early on in his administration as he grappled with a growing homeless population.

The city has long conducted sidewalk sweeps on homeless encampments around Oahu as a means to cut down on the visual blight and force people into shelters.

The effectiveness of the sweeps has been questioned for years, however, with critics saying it simply resulted in people losing their belongings, suffering new forms of trauma and moving to a new location.

“Some people think it’s not compassionate,” Caldwell said. “But enabling people to stay on the streets and in our parks where they die at a very much younger age is not compassionate either.”

The city recently released statistics from the Honolulu Medical Examiner’s Office showing that 127 homeless people died on Oahu in 2019, an increase over the previous two years….

read … Caldwell Talks Homelessness, HUD and Honolulu Rail In Washington DC

‘Houseless’ are Refusing to Accept Shelter, must be Forced off Streets

MN: … Let me elaborate on this. James (not his real name) is a man well known in the homeless community because he persistently asks me and others to stop using the word homeless and instead use houseless. James is perfectly happy living as he does on the streets and refusing the available services that will get him into a home. He is one of the people I do not consider homeless but would instead call houseless. For now, he is comfortable living as he does and is obviously at home living on the streets.

Why am I am making this distinction? Well, for two reasons. First, agencies aiding the homeless are already restrained in what they say; the work is difficult enough without the constant energy-wasting burden to be more politically correct.

And second, the Maui Homeless Alliance is working diligently to help people find a home, and the ones that I would call homeless are those they can successfully help. They are the ones who are not comfortable living a houseless lifestyle and realize that to thrive they need to be in the safety of a stable home. The ones who insist they are not homeless but houseless are the ones who (for the time being) are refusing help….

(Solution: Apply more force.)

read … Homeless and houseless can mean different things

Sit-lie ban, why not Kona?

WHT: … In 2014, Oahu implemented a county ordinance known as the sit-lie ban. Starting in Waikiki, homelessness reportedly dropped 83% in the first two years. Hawaii Tourism Authority president George Szigeti praised compassionate disruption, as the sit-lie ban is otherwise known, for “virtually eliminating homelessness in most high traffic areas.” The ordinance has since expanded to over 15 additional zones on Oahu….

Why not Kona?

The Kona police department told me they have no enforceable vagrancy laws, impeding their attempts to clear sidewalks and makeshift camps. We need to house and support the homeless; few disagree with those longterm goals. However, leaving people on the streets shortterm isn’t safe, hygienic or acceptable….

read … Sit-lie ban, why not Kona?

Defense Lawyers Upset After Efforts to Discourage Witness Undermined by Prosecutor

HNN: … Grace Pineda was beaten with a hammer in 2018 allegedly by her boyfriend, Kristopher Kalani.

Pineda, then 31 years old, had broken bones in her face and a head injury.

But earlier this week, she was arrested by the Honolulu prosecutor’s office with the help of deputy sheriffs for a traffic warrant that was issued six months ago.

Prosecutors recently started looking for warrants of witnesses and victims who are set to testify in upcoming trials.

Kalani’s attempted murder trial starts on February 3, less than two weeks….

“They could have resolved that or reconciled that some other way,” said Nanci Kreidman of the Domestic Violence Action Center, who believes the stepped up enforcement is meant to send a message to victims who may back out of testifying…

Kalani is being held without bail because of his lengthy and violent criminal past. He served a 10 year sentence for killing a man in a 2006 beating and was charged with assault of a police officer….

read … Prosecutor’s office arresting witnesses, victims with warrants ahead of them testifying

Lawsuit Claims Guards Had Suicidal Inmate Cuffed, Let Him Bleed To Death

CB: … Cheyenne Chong filed suit in 1st Circuit Court on behalf of her father, Wesley Chong, who died while in custody in 2017 at the Kulani Correctional Facility, a minimum security prison in Hilo.

The complaint alleges that correctional officers found Chong, who was serving a life sentence for manslaughter, “bleeding profusely” in a bathroom with lengthwise cuts on both forearms on June 15, 2017.

But instead of calling emergency services right away, the guards ordered another inmate to drag him out of the bathroom and handcuff him…

The press release on the day of Wesley Chong’s death offered few details.

It said that at about 2:45 a.m. prison staff responded to distress calls in one of the dorms and that staff began administering aid. A staff member called 911, according to the news release, and another performed CPR until emergency personnel arrived to take over at 3:36 a.m. Chong was pronounced dead at 3:43 a.m….

read … Lawsuit Claims Guards Had Suicidal Inmate Cuffed, Let Him Bleed To Death

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