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Sunday, February 16, 2020
February 16, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:37 PM :: 2870 Views

Stormwater: $100M Tax Hike After 36 Years of Lawyering and Foot-dragging

Ethics-Related Bills on the Move

Hawaii Congressional Delegation How They Voted February 15, 2020

The Flippin’ Surcharge and Other Housing Solutions

Legislators Games: $868K ‘Affordable’ Houses

SA: … The difference between the original House draft and its companion, Senate Bill 3104, lies in what the state wants developers to deliver.

HB 2542 would require that half the units built and leased on state-owned lands be reserved as affordable, which it defines as affordable to buyers earning 140% of the area median income (AMI) or below….For a family of four, a house priced at $868,000 would still qualify. How this is seen as affordable is hard to grasp.

The Senate version would lower the cap of the home pricing, and eliminate the allowance for market-priced homes to be built….

State Rep. Sylvia Luke, who chairs the House Finance Committee, cited a new report indicating that the state will need 50,000 total housing units within five years. But if the target was reduced to include only the homes between 60 and 140% of AMI, it translates to 17,000 homes that must be built. That, she said, seemed a more attainable goal.

Luke also insisted at the meeting that the bill would not specifically set the top bar at 140% AMI.

“Initially it was going to be a law, but that 140 will be removed, and what will be in the bill is what HHFDC determines is affordable in that neighborhood,” she said….

Senate President Ronald Kouchi said his concern is that many two-income middle-class families would tip past 100 or 120% AMI and would not qualify.

“Part of it is we don’t want to put it in concrete in the law as something that’s unreasonable,” Ige added. “We do expect that as we roll the product out, the competition will be amongst the developers, about who can get the prices the lowest, who can serve the biggest number of 100-120% (AMI), or 80 to 100, because that’s the part of the market we’re not serving today.”…

Chang wants to keep all the leasehold development affordable, not just half, which seems logical. Further, he wants to cap affordability at 80% AMI — but remove the income restrictions. That would avoid the marginal disqualification problem Kouchi raised….

read … Editorial: Find sweet spot on housing costs

How To Make Government Efficient?  Cut off their money

SA: … In 2005 the annual budget for Kahoolawe restoration was $7 million. By fiscal year 2019 the budget was down to $1.1 million. The dwindling funds forced KIRC to downsize and become more thrifty.

“We spent so many years trying to scrape two pennies together,” Nahoopii said. “You learn after a while how to make everything stretch.”

Helicopter transport was eliminated in favor of boat travel only, cutting transportation costs by roughly 90%. The entire camp was converted from generator power to photovoltaic. The air conditioning was removed when the ventilation was improved in the camp buildings.

“We used to bring $80,000 worth of fuel out to the island. Now we’re down to $25,000, mostly for vehicles and the boat,” Nahoopii said. “The vehicles were left over from military. We’re the kings of government surplus.”…

read … State money still needed for Kahoolawe restoration

Railroaded: City proposes Mind-Blowing 233% increase in bus fares

SA: … Seniors 65 and older, passengers with disabilities and riders holding Medicare cards would see the higher increases on a percentage basis. But commissioners pointed out that in reality, those in the newly clumped category would be paying a maximum of $60 annually, an increase of $25.

While not a baby step, “going from $35 to $60 is not that big of a step — it’s a, you know, teenage step,” said Rate Commissioner James Burke.

The commission voted 6-1 Tuesday to give a tentative OK to the plan. Commission Chairwoman Cheryl Soon said the commission could still make further changes based on the feedback it receives in the coming weeks.

“We may still tweak it one way or another,” she said.

Public meetings are scheduled for 6:30-8:30 p.m. March 3 at Kapolei Hale, March 5 at Kailua District Park Community Room and March 10 at the Mission Memorial Building next to Honolulu Hale. Written testimony will be accepted through March 10 by emailing

Broadly speaking, the plan calls for all single rides to go up 25 cents.

Another key component of the proposal is that it requires regular transit riders who want to receive discounts for their frequent travel to pay with recently introduced Holo cards, the reloadable electronic cards that work like prepaid debit cards. If using a Holo card, the plan proposes that a passenger be “capped,” or not charged, for more than 2.5 rides a day or 27 rides a month.

Under the latest draft, seniors, those with disabilities and those with Medicare cards would see a single ride move to $1.25, up from $1. A new $3 daily cap, which would use the new electronic Holo card to keep tally and then stop how much a passenger pays during a given day, would replace the existing $2 one-day pass program that allows passengers to catch as many rides as possible each day. That equates to a 50% increase…

Seniors, those with disabilities and those with Medicare cards who ride TheBus frequently could take advantage of what would be a $20 monthly cap, which would replace the existing monthly pass that now costs $6. That’s an increase of 233%. There would also be the $60 annual cap, which is a 71% increase over the current annual pass amount of $35…..

The basic adult single fare, for those 18 to 64, would rise to $3 from the current $2.75, about a 9% increase. A new $7.50 daily cap, which also would use the new electronic Holo card, would replace the existing $5.50 one-day pass program. That’s a 36% increase.

The proposal calls for an $80 monthly cap, a 14% increase over the current monthly pass rate of $70. Annual passes for adults, which now costs $770, would be eliminated entirely.

The single ride rate for youths (ages 5 to 17) would be $1.50, up 25 cents, or 20%, from the existing fare. The daily cap of $3.75 would replace the existing $2.50 daily pass, amounting to an increase of 50%.

The youth monthly pass would rise to $40, up 14% from the current $35. Annual passes, which now cost $385, would also be eliminated…

While the commission’s proposal calls for riders to pay more, it is projected to bring in less revenue than a recommended fare box recovery ratio policy of 25% to 30% of costs. So taxpayers would still be paying for more than 75% of TheBus operations. 

CB: Honolulu officials are seeking public input on setting rates.

Big Q: What do you think about the city’s proposal for a moderate increase in bus fares?

read … An Article Titled: 'City proposes moderate increases in bus fares'

The stink of rail will follow Kirk Caldwell wherever he goes

SA: … It’s rich to see Mayor Kirk Caldwell posing as the voice of truth on Oahu’s floundering $9.2 billion rail project.

He’s lately flogged directors of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation for over-promising on the start date for interim rail service between Kapolei and Aloha Stadium and foot-dragging on utilities relocation along the Dillingham Boulevard rail corridor.

Caldwell blamed his decision to drop his proposed $722 million Blaisdell Center renovation on possible future cost increases for rail construction and operations.

“If we don’t deliver on the promises made, what remaining trust we have is going to evaporate,” he lectured the HART board, as if he or HART have any remaining public trust.

It adds up to a cynical attempt to cleanse himself of rail’s stench and evade blame for further likely overruns as he finishes his remaining months as mayor and prepares to run for governor in 2022.

If Caldwell has problems with the work of HART’s board, he should complain to a mirror. As mayor he appoints four of the nine voting members, more than anybody else, and the board directly reflects his values and priorities….

read … The stink of rail will follow Kirk Caldwell wherever he goes

Messaging on rail project changing

SA: … recently the messaging about the rail project has changed, and that is disconcerting. It is one thing to not know how much the dang thing is going to cost. It’s another to not know if anybody is going to ride it.

Did we not come to believe that folks from the west side through Kapolei and Waipahu and all through Pearl City were begging for this thing so they didn’t have to drive in gridlock every single working day of their lives? Were we not told that the rail was going to help out the folks who live out west but work in town or send their kids to a school in Honolulu? ….

Aren’t the people for whom this uku-billion dollar project is being built clamoring for a train to save their weary souls and give them back hours of their family lives?

OMG, maybe not….

Last week, a top administrator from the state Department of Transportation, in responding to an interview question about the impact rail will have on state highways, said, “At this time, rail will not be a transportation solution. … When I talk to people about rail and ask them, ‘Do you support it?’ they say yes. When I ask them, ‘Are you going to ride it?’ They say no.” He did add, however, that in the long run, transit-oriented development would keep more commuters on the west side.

Perhaps the most jarring change in messaging has come from Honolulu’s own mayor, who took office promising to do rail right and is closing out his tenure by distancing himself from the mess that he could not fix or mitigate. Kirk Caldwell is accusing HART of making false promises of an artificial starting date, blaming the demise of his Blaisdell boondoggle on HART budget troubles, trying to step away from podium promises of rail-righteousness and slip into the crowd with the rest of the voters saying, “What the heck is going on here?’…

read … Messaging on rail project changing

Blangiardi Campaign Unites Lingle, Cayetano

Borreca: … Because he has never run for office in Hawaii, Rick Blangiardi may be considered a political outsider — but the campaign team revealed when Blangiardi announced for mayor last week was a perfectly balanced cast of insiders.

Of course, you don’t want a team comprised of first-time voters, but when your team includes the former head of the state’s largest medical complex, Hawaii’s most successful GOP governor, a savvy businesswoman and wife of a groundbreaking Democratic Hawaii governor, and scads of community leaders, your kuleana looks like a big part of the Hawaii establishment.

Blangiardi just completed a successful broadcast management career, ending with a decade as general manager of Hawaii News Now, which he said gave him “a broad overview, and clear insight to the key issues that must become our priority in managing our city.”

To introduce himself to the grassroots, Blangiardi is planning to campaign in “all 35 Neighborhood Board districts in the coming weeks because we want our campaign to understand what matters most to you and your community.” …

Senate revisions in SB 3104, as proposed by the housing chairman, Sen. Stanley Chang

read … For mayoral hopefuls, including 2 political newbies, time will be of the essence

Implementation of Maunakea rules could take 6-12 months

HTH: … Although Gov. David Ige approved the University of Hawaii’s new administrative rules governing Maunakea in January, it could still take a year before all of those rules can be implemented.

The rules codify what activities are permitted and not permitted on UH-managed Maunakea lands, but a framework for actually putting some of those rules into action has not yet been finalized….

So far, the impacts of the new rules to tour companies are minimal. Rob Pacheco, CEO of tour company Hawaii Forest and Trail, said the only immediate impacts he is aware of is positive: The new rules prohibit two-wheel drive vehicles north of Halepohaku, which cuts down on traffic and reduces wear and tear to the road.

“But, down the line, it’s going to be a new regime,” Pacheco said, adding that he expects that UH will change the terms for tour companies to obtain permits to access the mountain.

Chun said UH is in the process of determining whether to increase or decrease the number of available tour permits.

He also said much of the answers for these logistical questions depend on the findings of an ongoing three-year tour capacity study that began last year….

Background: Ige Approves Mauna Kea Administrative Rules

read … Implementation of Maunakea rules could take 6-12 months

Hawaii to continue paying half of air fare to help homeless return to families

SA: … The state would continue to pay half the cost of air fare to send homeless people back to their families on the mainland, the Federated States of Micronesia and beyond, under a wide-ranging homeless services bill that moved out of two House committees on Wednesday.

House Bill 1945 originally called for a $1.5 million appropriation from transient accommodations tax revenues — to be matched dollar-for-dollar by private donations led by Hawaii’s tourism industry. The ultimate amount of the government funding will be determined later if the bill survives….

read … Hawaii to continue paying half of air fare to help homeless return to families

More Homeless Mayhem: Dead Body found in Hilo Homeless Camp

BIN: … Hawaiʻi Police continued their investigation after a body was discovered on Valentine’s Day at a homeless encampment on the edge of the Wailuku Riverbank in Hilo.

The victim has been identified as 28-year-old Isaac Wessel-Rivera of Hilo.

Authorities were first alerted to an incident in the encampment at about 9 p.m. on Friday. When South Hilo Patrol officers arrived on scene, they found the body of Wessel-Rivera.

Thirty-two-year-old Westen Tegman, of Hilo, was initially taken into custody for questioning. Upon further investigation, Tegman has since been released….

WHT: Pathologist rules suicide in case of body found at Hilo homeless encampment

PDF: Tegman helped write Pahoa Community Development Plan

Meanwhile: Megan May Funderburk Found Dead Near Hilo

read … Police Continue Investigation into Body Found at Hilo Homeless Camp

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