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Sunday, February 9, 2020
February 9, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 2:16 PM :: 2330 Views

92 Candidates File for Election 

The ConAm Returns

Wacky Season at Legislature

Hawaii Congressional Delegation How They Voted February 8, 2020

Hawaii Family Forum Legislative Week in Review

DoE Pay Hikes: Million Here Million There no Accountability Anywhere

Shapiro: … Without appropriation from the Legislature, the DOE unilaterally increased annual pay for hard-to-fill positions, such as special-education and Hawaiian immersion teachers, by $3,000 to $10,000 in a move it said would improve recruitment and retention….

The DOE is now asking legislators for $70 million to fund those differentials for this year and next, along with its other proposal for pay bumps of $900 to $17,000 for high-seniority teachers.

The department has no data showing this will solve the retention problem. It’s being done outside of the collective bargaining process, which will bring its own set of compounding teacher raises, and without asking teachers for anything in return such as greater accountability or more class time for students.

The Senate Education Committee, in the first hearing on the proposal, recommended that funding be cut to $25 million, which would leave DOE to either trim the raises or take the remaining $45 million from other funds.

Meantime, legislators are reviving a scheme to take the funding heat off themselves by raiding county property taxes for teacher raises….

Honolulu needs any flex in the property tax to pay for rail operations, and neighbor island counties have disaster relief challenges.

Arguments that property taxes are widely used on the mainland to fund schools are bogus; schools there are locally run, so use of local taxes is appropriate….

Teacher pay is a legitimate concern …. But adjustments should be driven by data rather than hunches, mesh with collective bargaining, assure taxpayer return and not needlessly intrude on already tenuous county finances.

read … More cohesion needed in the push for higher teacher pay

Felix resigns from rail board—Calls for Audit

SA: … Businessman and former Honolulu City Councilman John Henry Felix is resigning from the rail authority board effective as soon as his replacement is confirmed, and recommends in his resignation letter that the city declare a “time out” on the project and pause the construction of rail at Middle Street….

Felix also urged the HART board in his resignation letter to complete a forensic audit of the rail project to determine exactly how the cost of the 20-mile rail line ballooned from about $5.2 billion in 2012 to today’s budget of $9.2 billion.

“Before you can get it right, you have to figure out what went wrong,” Felix wrote in his resignation letter, which was dated Jan. 29.

The Honolulu City Council has budgeted up to $2 million for a forensic audit of rail, and Councilwoman Heidi Tsuneyoshi said her office has been discussing the scope of the project with the Honolulu City Auditor.

Felix contends in his letter that the audit should determine whether the rail ridership will turn out to be as large as was originally projected, and whether the ridership justifies the cost of rail. HART projects the rail line will have 119,600 weekday passenger trips by the year 2030…. 

CB: HART Board Member Most Critical Of Rail’s Handling Resigns

SA: Thousands turn out to tour nearly complete Halaulani city rail station

read … Ex-Council member John Henry Felix resigns from rail board

City’s big idea of rail transit creates big money pit that next mayor will need to fill

Borreca: … Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s legacy project of turning the Neal Blaisdell Center into a revitalization of a Honolulu arts and cultural district at a cost of almost $1 billion just dissolved in the face of mounting bills for rail.

When former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann convinced the Legislature to allow the city to raise Oahu’s state general excise tax to pay for a 20-mile elevated rail line, it was a big plan with a big bill. If you search back to 2006 you can find reports of Hannemann estimating rail to cost $3.7 billion.

Yes, it was a state tax increase, but it was going to the city. The important catch was, if more money was needed, the city would pay.

Now Caldwell finds that his big plans are not so much stirring the taxpayers’ blood as breaking the bank.

Two years ago, state House leaders warned Caldwell he couldn’t afford both trains and concerts. Caldwell shot back, claiming the city has lots of ways to get money.

“Funding for the Neal S. Blaisdell Center Master Plan and construction of the rail project come from completely different sources. Any attempt to confuse the public regarding these separate funding sources does a disservice to our community,” Caldwell said.

Those two pots apparently both had holes in them, because economics have now forced Caldwell to cross out his legacy culture-and-arts project, admitting that no money means no money.

“Given that the final construction cost is yet unknown for the last 4.16 miles of our rail system and the City’s financial responsibilities for the operations of the upcoming rail service, in addition to a new administration and City Council starting in less than one year, we decided that it is a logical time to pause the project,” Caldwell said of his Blaisdell plan….

read … City’s big idea of rail transit creates big money pit that next mayor will need to fill

Controversial Kahuku wind farm is built, what's next?

HNN: … Hawaii State Senator Gil Riviere (D) tells KITV4 there is now a renewed political and legal charge to challenge the wind farm.

"There's three very real legal challenges that are pending on this case," Senator Riviere stated.

Keep the North Shore Country, a nonprofit with which Senator Riviere is involved appealed to the the City & County of Honolulu's Department of Planning and Permitting regarding the Land Use Ordinance for the wind farm and has been granted a hearing on March 5, Senator Riviere tells KITV4.

"If they can't sell electricity or their not allowed to operate because they’re killing endangered species or if they have to tear down turbines because they’re in the setback I think that’s going to hurt their ability to operate," he added…..

read … Controversial Kahuku wind farm is built, what's next?

House Turns Homeless Housing Bill into another Study

SA: … The latest dispiriting setback came last week when two House panels balked at expanding the proposed system of village-style (“kauhale”) networks of tiny houses for the homeless, as proposed in House Bill 2112.

The first, the Kauhale Kamaile Project in Waianae, has shown promise as an affordable model using state lands and private partners and donations for construction. They have real potential to direct homeless families toward stability and prospects for a productive life.

Initial work on a second village has begun in Kalaeloa, and that project will continue, said state Rep. Joy San Buenaventura.

However, the representative, who chairs the Committee on Human Services and Homelessness, said she wants to know more about who will be responsible for management and maintenance of the kauhale projects….

However, rather than advance the proposal for a $20 million, one-year pilot program, San Buenaventura’s committee, as well as the Committee on Housing, voted that the bill should support a study of the concept….

There is still time for this effort to get on track. The companion Senate Bill 2442 is moving, and can be the vehicle to replicate the kauhale solution for homeless families….

read … With housing demand soaring, push ahead on creative units such as kauhale villages

Heiress Abigail Kawananakoa may testify in fight over $215M estate

SA: … Abigail Kawananakoa is likely to testify for the first time in the court battle over her $215 million estate next month, but her attorneys want the hearing closed to the public.

The three-day hearing set to begin March 9 was ordered to determine whether the Campbell Estate heiress is capable of handling her own financial affairs without the help of a court-­appointed conservator….

But Veronica Gail Worth, Kawananakoa’s life partner of more than 20 years and now her wife, challenged the declaration and insisted Kawananakoa is mentally capable of handling her own affairs.

Worth, who has changed her last name to Kawananakoa, is seeking to return control of the trust to Kawananakoa….

Background: Kawananakoa Estate: Sex, Drugs, and Inequality

read … Heiress Abigail Kawananakoa may testify in fight over $215M estate

Hilo: Political Insiders try to Block Charter School from Their Neighborhood

HTH: … A decision by the state’s Intermediate Court of Appeals sends a Hilo charter school’s special permit application to develop a campus in Kaumana back to the Windward Planning Commission, where the request was denied in 2014.

In the process, the appellate court also overturned a 2015 ruling by Kona Circuit Judge Melvin Fujino upholding the commission’s denial of the permit sought by Connections New Century Public Charter School to develop on about 70 acres of agricultural-zoned land on Edita Street off Kaumana Drive.

Connections’ plans for the site— located on state land leased to the school for 65 years at $480 per year — were opposed by neighbors. Those named as “intervenor-appellees” in the case include Jeffrey Gomes, owner of Hawaii Bookmark; Sidney Fuke, a private planner and former county planning director; and Terence Yoshioka, a retired judge.

Also named in the appeal by the school were the planning commission, the Planning Department and Sandra Song — a retired judge and the contested-case hearings officer hired by the commission whose report recommended denial of the permit.

The 44-page opinion and memorandum filed Jan. 31 by the appellate court said the commission’s conclusion that the development “is not consistent with the uses permitted in areas of low-density urban use” provided “no satisfactory explanation … why building a school in a low-density urban area is contrary to the general plan.”

The appeals court’s memo instructs the commission to convene “further proceedings consistent with” its opinion….

read … Appeals court sends charter school’s permit request back to Windward Planning Commission

Airbnb, Timeshare Industry fatten council campaign war chests

HTH: … Four Hawaii County Council members each received a $500 contribution from Airbnb last year, although the source of their money wasn’t obvious.

The contributions to Council Chairman Aaron Chung, Hamakua Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter, Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy and Puna Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz were received in November and December, according to campaign finance reports submitted to the state Campaign Spending Commission by the Jan. 31 deadline.

The short-term vacation rental platform gave the money under an organization dubbed, “Committee to Expand the Middle Class.”….

In addition, three council members — Chung, Kierkiewicz and Kohala Councilman Tim Richards — each received $500 contributions from timeshare political action committee ARDA ROC-PAC, “an alliance of owners, developers and managers who are committed to advocating for local, state and federal policies that enable the vacation ownership industry to thrive,”….

read … Money

Court orders banning firearms possession are hard to enforce

SA: … A gun ban was part of an injunction against harassment granted to two of Hanel’s neighbors, Rebecca Atkinson and Warren Daniel, on Aug. 21, 2018. The order, which was good for three years, barred Hanel from controlling, possessing or transferring ownership of any firearm or ammunition. Hanel was required to turn firearms and ammunition over to the police department for safekeeping until Aug. 21, 2021….

Initial enforcement of a temporary restraining order or injunction is up to a Hono­lulu Police Department officer who, while serving the order, will ask the subject if they have firearms and ammunition. If the subject says yes, the officer confiscates them. If the subject says no, police can’t move forward without getting a search warrant.

Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard said Tuesday that police did not seek a search warrant to look for firearms or ammunition at Hanel’s home. Ballard made the remark at a press conference at the Hawaii State Capitol to introduce gun violence prevention and mental health legislation.

“If a TRO is issued and there’s a ‘weapons’ (order) our (Specialized Service Division) usually goes to the house and for the most part usually they are allowed in and they collect the guns,” Ballard said. “There are occasions where they refuse us. We do have a right to get search warrants to go into those houses which we’ve been hesitant to use.”

HPD spokeswoman Michelle Yu said police apply for search warrants, but it’s up to the prosecutors and courts to approve the warrant….

“HPD has applied for these search warrants in the past, and they were seldom approved. We are presently working with prosecutors to change this,” Yu said….

SA: House panels scuttle gun bill giving more power to police

read … Court orders banning firearms possession are hard to enforce

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