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Wednesday, February 26, 2020
February 26, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 2:50 PM :: 2763 Views

OHA Suing the State - Enough is Enough!

Hawaii Grabs $1,471 Income Tax Per Capita

Hawaii Median Homeowner Pays $1,607 Property Tax

Coast Guard Interdicts Foreign Fishing Boats off Hawaii, Guam

Hawaii House to Vote on Anti-Gun Bills

Ninth Circuit Court Rules Trump Admin Stripping Funding From Abortion Clinics Is Constitutional

What’s Really Driving the Homelessness Crisis?

Quality of Life? Residents Say Honolulu Ranks 391st

Exposed: ‘Stormwater Utility’ Does Not Exist—Just a Disguise for Property tax Hike

SA: … Despite being named the Oahu Storm Water Utility study, no entirely new agency is being proposed. The”utility” refers to the planned user fee and dedicated source of funding….

(IQ Test: Are you laughing?)

… How much that will cost has yet to be determined, Sasamura said….

There’s already a Storm Water Quality Branch within the city Department of Facility Maintenance which deals with stormwater issues such as storm drain and waterway cleaning. Sasamura said with or without a new dedicated fund, the agency is already being converted to a Storm Water Division which will have expanded staff and do much more proactive work to address upcoming storms (a shiny new sign on the door).

“This isn’t establishing a new bureaucracy,” he said about what he’s seeing is the biggest misconception of the plan. “The Storm Water Quality Branch already exists. We’re already having to increase in size to address the current situation that we have with regulatory compliance as well as some of the other measures we have to deal with,” he said.

(Translation: It’s about ‘creating positions’, what else?)

To date, the city has spent about $1 million on the project for, among other things, establishing the base-line stormwater management and permit compliance expense, Sasamura said….

(Translation: The City has spent $1M setting up a sham utility to cover up for a property tax hike.)

The city now spends about $92 million annually on stormwater-related costs, he said. About $70 million of that is from property taxes, $22 million from the highway fund.  Some increased level of improvements will need to be made even without a separate stormwater utility charge, Sasamura said….

(Translation: This is just a property tax hike disguised as a fee for a non-existent utility.)

Under one “possible” range of fees being shown at community meetings, the owner of a residential property with less than 2,000 square feet of impervious area would pay $5-$7 a month; the owner of a lot with between 2,000-3,000 square feet would pay $10-$14; and the owner of a lot with more than 4,200 square feet would pay $22-$28.

Everyone pays the same, regardless of their tax classification, Sasamura said. So a government property or church property, which are exempt from property taxes, would need to pay the same as the residential lot with the same amount of impervious surface.

A key part of the equation is that the city expects the state and federal governments to pay their share of stormwater fees despite their exemption from paying property taxes. While much of state and federal government property consists of open space, the fee would be imposed on developed properties such as airports and military installations.

The city has created a database showing Oahu has 1.548 billion square feet of impervious surfaces.

About 15% of that figure is on federal lands or state lands.

Churches, temples and other faith-based properties as well as those belonging to nonprofits would also need to pay based on the same formula.

…property owners would pay a fee tied to how much impermeable surface their properties contain…. 

Big Q: What do you think of the city’s proposal for a stormwater utility fee? – 76% Oppose

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

Feb 25, 2020: “Caldwell said he won’t be proposing any property tax increases in his upcoming budget for the fiscal year that begins in July.”

read … City officials propose stormwater utility fee

New election means being vigilant for old tricks

Cataluna: … What was once a convenient, novel option is now the only option (though some in-person polling places will be set up). And what was the popular choice is looking a little less progressive and a little more open to corruption….

The possible downside is depressing to consider, though, and it goes something like this:

>> “I’m in charge in this family, and I’ll fill out all the ballots in this house!”

>> “You want to keep your job, you show me your ballot with the right names checked on it.”

>> “This nice politician came to the day room this morning and helped all the kupuna fill out their ballots and took them to be mailed. Isn’t that sweet?”

>> “Hey, man, I hear there’s a guy who is paying 30 bucks for every blank ballot you get for him.”

>> “Voters in one district are complaining that no ballots were delivered to their mailing addresses. In other news, neighbors have reported a suspicious vehicle that showed up on their street moments after the postal delivery.”

>> “Oh, babes, sorry. I filled out yours when I filled out mines. And then I filled out mines. I figure save you the trouble, yeah?”

>> “Uh-oh. Grandma just called. She said Romy Cachola is at the door.”

Flashback: Vote by Mail Fraud: Romy Cachola Barged In, Wanted Ballots

read … New election means being vigilant for old tricks

Bill to exempt primary care providers from general excise tax moves forward

SoR: … A bill moving forward in the state legislature (HB 2542) aims to put in place a tax exemption on medical services provided by primary care physicians and APRNs.

Under Hawaii’s current law, the state general excise tax (GET) applies to health care services provided by group and private practice physicians. According to the bill’s text, Hawaii is the only state in the country that taxes medical services in this way. …

By removing the burden of the GET tax on primary care providers, supporters of the bill hope it will help address Hawaii’s physician workforce shortage.

“I am told, and I do believe, that eliminating the General Excise Tax on health care services would be a very positive step in improving the economics for healthcare providers, thereby encouraging existing providers to stay in practice and enticing new providers to join us,” stated Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim in written testimony.

The Hawaii Medical Association also submitted testimony in support of HB 2542, noting that this tax particularly impacts providers in rural areas.

“This [tax] can essentially eliminate the ability to maintain a viable practice, particularly in rural areas with a high proportion of Medicare and Medicaid, the GET costs of which cannot be passed on to patients.”

The bill passed out of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection, and Health Committee unanimously on February 12 before passing out of the Senate Ways and Means Committee on February 19.

If passed, the exemption will be effective for gross receipts received on or after January 1, 2021….

read … Bill to exempt primary care providers from general excise tax moves forward

Honolulu, Maui drop sharply in ranking of hottest US job markets

PBN: … Honolulu dropped 21 spots in an annual ranking of the top job markets in the country, according to a survey recently released by the Wall Street Journal.

For the survey, the Wall Street Journal compared metros in two categories — those with one million or more people, and those with less than one million people — across the United States based on each city's unemployment rate, labor force participation, job growth, labor force growth and wage growth. According to the 2020 ranking, Urban Honolulu ranked 126 out of 328 metropolitan areas in the United States, a drop from last year when it ranked 106.

Part of Honolulu's low ranking had to do with the fact that its labor force decreased by 1.5% putting it near the bottom (No. 322) in that category. Honolulu also ranked low for its 61.7% labor force participation percentage (ranking it No. 149 in that category) and job growth rate of 0.9% (No. 188).

On the plus side, Honolulu ranked high for its unemployment rate of 2.6% (No. 19) and wage growth rate of 4.1% (No. 58).

The Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina metropolitan area also plummeted on the Wall Street Journal's list, dropping to No. 191 from No. 35 last year with a 1.6% decrease in labor force growth and a 1% increase in job growth and a 2.1% increase in wage growth….

read … Honolulu drops in ranking of hottest US job markets

‘Inadvertent Mistake’ Deletes Online Evaluations Of Hawaii’s Top Judges

CB: … Attorneys are asked to resubmit surveys intended to help justices and judges improve judicial performance…..

The yearly confidential evaluations are administered by the Hawaii Information Consortium, an independent contractor retained as the state’s internet portal manager.

According to Browning, an “inadvertent mistake” resulted in the “irretrievable deletion” of all completed evaluations of the five justices and six judges submitted by attorneys in January and February.

“Please be assured that there was no security breach of any information,” Browning said in his email….

read … ‘Inadvertent Mistake’ Deletes Online Evaluations Of Hawaii’s Top Judges

City Answer to Corona Virus?  A Capital Improvement Project

HNN: … The city wants to replace its Emergency Operations Center with a new four-story facility that would be built next to the recently-completed Joint Traffic Management Center and the Alapai Transit Center.

According to Department of Emergency Management officials, the EOC has been activated 28 times since August 2018 ― when Hurricane Lane took aim at the state. The last time the city activated its EOC was during the Diamond Head police shooting and fire in January.

The command center in the basement of the Fasi Municipal Building has gone through several renovations since it was built in the 1970s….

read … City plans $39M Emergency Operations Center to better respond to disasters

City Homeless Solution—A Tax Hike!

KHON: … “We have vagrants coming in doing drugs,” explained Nakamoto.

“I saw this one guy coming out of the house and I said, ‘Hey! What are you doing there? This is private property.’ He says, I just went to use the bathroom. There’s no bathroom in there. He just went to pee on the side of the house…We have kids that live on this street and they play and it’s not a good environment for them.”

Nakamoto said that they’ve called the police numerous times but all they do is chase the trespassers off the property and they keep coming back.

He’s worried the house will catch on fire like the vacant homes on Date Street and Kinau Street.

“I am very afraid. My wife is in a wheelchair. If there’s ever a fire, she can’t get out in time. With the condition of this house, it’s like a matchbox–once it goes up it will go really fast,” Nakamoto said.

Marc Alexander, the city’s office of housing executive director said vacant homes are a big problem.

“We have a very high vacancy rate in Honolulu its self, which is why action number one in terms of our resilience strategy is to reduce empty homes,” Alexander said.

He said the city’s plan is to create a vacancy tax.

“I know it’s not an immediate solution,” admitted Jon Stanbro, the city’s chief resiliency officer.

“But making sure that there’s a vacancy fee there that allows folks to move more quickly to fill in those homes with a local family, that’s how you solve problems,” said Stanbro…

Reality: Debunked: Caldwell’s ‘Vancouver Tax’ Does Nothing to Ease Rental Crisis

More Reality: The Tax on Ghost Homes

read … More Tax Hikes Coming

Fluoride: Hawaii Teeth Rot Because of Sen Mike Gabbard Cult

CB: … This legislative session, two fluoride-related bills cycled through the Hawaii Senate, each with the opposite intention.

The first was a proposal to fluoridate Hawaii’s public drinking water, something that has failed over and over in previous legislative sessions. The other was the first of its kind: a bill that would place an outright ban on water fluoridation in Hawaii.

Both bills died. But their fates shed light on why Hawaii, whose population has some of the worst oral health in the nation, isn’t likely to get fluoridation anytime soon.

A 2015 Hawaii Department of Health study found the state has the highest rate of tooth decay in the nation among third graders, and nearly half of Hawaii adults have lost at least one tooth because of tooth decay or gum disease.

Yet lawmakers remain split on the use of fluoridation to address poor oral health in Hawaii, even as community water fluoridation has become a relatively common practice, with about 71% of Americans receiving it through their public water systems.

Hawaii’s fluoridation debate is mostly split between two camps: dentists and public health advocates on the pro-fluoride side, and anti-fluoridation activists and some longtime Hawaii lawmakers on the other….

Hawaii Sens. Mike Gabbard (Hare Krishna Cult) and Donna Mercado Kim reject those recommendations and remain rooted in the belief that community water fluoridation equates to unnecessary “mass-medication,” a term both of them used….

Gabbard said Senate Bill 2732 was requested by a retired chemist and he received advice on drafting the legislation from Stuart Cooper, campaign director for Fluoride Action Network, a donations-based anti-fluoride group.

Gabbard’s bill wasn’t scheduled for a hearing and ultimately failed to move forward this legislative session.

The legislation in support of fluoridation, Senate Bill 2997, also stalled when Sen. Karl Rhoads wasn’t able to garner enough votes in the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose members include Gabbard and Kim….

read … Why Hawaii Continues To Keep Fluoride Out Of Its Drinking Water

Hawaii County Water Rates to Jump 6%

HTH: … The Hawaii County Department of Water Supply is holding the line on its budget, projecting a 0.5% decrease compared to this year.

But water rates are likely to go up 6% under the plan, which projects a 6.7% decrease in water usage, from 9.6 billion gallons to 9 billion gallons.

The Water Board on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to the budget, sending it to a March 24 public hearing in Kona. The budget faces two more votes.

The board plans to have a consultant come to its April meeting to talk about the next rate study, which will be used to set rates over the next five years.

The $55.4 million budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 includes a 3% pay raise for 188 employees. It also adds three new positions: one each in administration, operations and finance.

The excess of receipts over expenditures, estimated at $6.2 million, will be used to pay down debt and to add $536,400 to the capital improvement project construction budget. The water department currently pays 13.5% of its revenues for debt service, the annual payments of principal and interest on its borrowing.

The department also presented a $135.1 million, five-year capital improvement project plan that would use $26.4 million in the coming fiscal year to concentrate on 10 specific projects…

read … Water budget moves forward

Court: Maui County streetlight project violated state environmental law

MN: … Wildlife advocates who sued Maui County over harmful streetlights earned a partial victory Monday after an environmental court judge ruled that the county violated state law by failing to conduct an environmental review before installing the fixtures.

Hawaii Wildlife Fund and the Conservation Council for Hawaii filed a lawsuit against the county in February 2019 to stop the installation of LED lights in 4,800 streetlight fixtures, which the groups said would disorient sea turtles, birds and other wildlife.

On Monday, the court ruled that the county Public Works Department violated the Hawaii Environmental Policy Act by signing a contract committing $1.9 million toward the streetlights project without first considering the environmental impacts, and then exempting the project from the act after installations began, according to a news release from the plaintiffs.

“What we’re asking the county to do right now is restore the status quo, to reduce the blue light to at least as low as it was before, just so that environmental review can take place before a clean slate,” said Kylie Wager Cruz, an attorney with Earthjustice who is representing the plaintiffs.

The two environmental groups, however, are still awaiting a decision on their request that the county install filters on the 947 lights that have already been installed….

read … Court: County streetlight project violated state environmental law

Snorkel Rentals Kill—Hawaii Ground Zero for Snorkel Deaths

KITV: …As more people dive into our waters, the numbers of snorkel deaths keeps going up: Averaging nearly one every two weeks across the state.

"This is Hawaii, ground zero for snorkeling drownings. So we are trying to figure out what is going on," said Ralph Goto, an organizer of the 2020 Hawaii Snorkel Study Safety Workshop.

What is going on when you breathe through a snorkel is: not all of your exhaled air leaves the snorkel. So when you inhale next, you breath 40% used air.….

Continued breathing in the low oxygen environment, especially for those exerting themselves or with pre-existing conditions, could become a recipe for disaster.

"You might get dizzy and lightheaded. If it goes on for a long time, you could have altered mental status and eventually go unconscious. That is not a good thing," added Yamamoto, who is also a former Maui Fire battalion Chief.

Nearly 50% of visitor deaths happen while they are snorkeling, but local residents are not immune to the dangers….

"I found the majority of full faced masks were worse than traditional snorkels, but I found one full face snorkel that was way, way better than the traditional snorkel," stated Yamamoto….

"There are no regulations on snorkel equipment," added Yamamoto….

read … Snorkel Rentals Kill

Ahead of the Majority?  48 Years Later Aiea HS May Get Female Locker-room

HNN: … Female athletes at Aiea High School will soon have their own athletic locker room to address (ahem 1972… cough, cough) Title IX gender equity requirements.

Right now, female teams have to use the P.E. department’s buildings while the male teams have their own space.

It’s all part of a $13 million renovation to the school’s athletic facilities.

Developers hope to break ground later this year. The designs call for a competition-sized wrestling room, an improved weight training room, and a new outdoor teaching space.

The three-story structure is also set to be ADA compliant, and will offer some gender-neutral facilities….

In 2016, the DOE’s statewide athletic plan showed there were 14 schools that had facilities for men, but no facilities for women. In 2018, a class action suit was filed on behalf of female athletes at Campbell High School over the issue.

By the end of 2018, Gov. Ige had presented a budget with funds for school improvements to create female athletic facilities for schools in need of it….

read … Plans in the works for female athletic facilities, new complex at Aiea High School

Legislative News:
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