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Wednesday, December 2, 2020
December 2, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 2:58 PM :: 4621 Views

Meet OHA's New Board of Trustees

States With the Highest Vehicle Theft Rates Hawaii #6

Long Term Care: Hawaii Costs Soaring Faster

2021 Neighborhood Board Elections--Candidate Registration Begins

Trump's Leaving But Can We Keep His Hawaii US Attorney?

Cataluna: … Do we get to keep Kenji Price?

Amid all the chaos and misinformation, the divisive and damaging rhetoric and the ugly self-dealing, the polarizing President Donald Trump did us a solid by appointing a serious hotshot to be U.S. attorney for the District of Hawaii.

Price took over the job in January 2018 — you may remember that the Trump administration took a long time to appoint U.S. attorneys in several states. In less than two years, he has taken on some of the gnarliest crimes and crime figures in Hawaii, sometimes stepping in to support, or, if need be, take over for local police departments….

While Kirk Caldwell’s department directors were shaking in their boots and bending over backward to give special dispensation to Mike Miske so he could control part of a public beach park to light up a tree as a memorial, Price’s team was no fear, go get ’em. Federal investigators methodically built a case that led to Miske’s arrest, along with 10 of his associates, and 22 criminal charges, including murder, kidnapping, drug trafficking, bank fraud, use of chemical weapons and robbery….

When Kauai County Councilman Arthur Brun was involved in a chaotic traffic stop that led to a chase around Lihue with drugs being thrown out of the car and a Kauai police officer getting hurt, Price swooped in to take over the case and bring federal charges. Price and his crew lifted that whole mess off the island, organized it and put it on a path toward adjudication. Price called Brun the leader of a major drug-trafficking conspiracy and locked him up pending trial….

In September, Price stood with his team to announce charges against a Honolulu defense contractor, Martin Kao of Martin Defense Group, for allegedly taking $12.8 million in coronavirus relief aid his business was not entitled to receive….

Price’s office was involved in the case against IBEW 1260 union boss Brian Ahakuelo, who is accused of using union finances as his own personal spending account. There is a mythology about the invincibility of unions in Hawaii. Price blew right past that….

Let’s not forget that the cops sentenced to serve time for making a homeless man lick a urinal were also taken out by U.S. Attorney Kenji Price….

Could we put in a special request to Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono to tell Biden to leave him be? …

Price has left his mark, but there’s more work to be done, and so much COVID-19 money being thrown around that needs a vigilant watchdog on the job….

Nov 29, 2020: Kealoha sentencing Monday: Feds Will be Leaving Soon--Crooks, Cronies can Get Back to Business

read … Trump's Leaving But Can We Keep His Hawaii US Attorney?

The Sorry State Of Public Information In Hawaii

CB: … since Gov. David Ige suspended Hawaii’s public records law with a proclamation in March — and repeatedly extended the suspension since then — government officials have been ignoring requests or dragging their feet when it comes to providing information that is important for you, the public, to know about how your government is operating and spending your tax dollars….

When COVID-19 cases in Hawaii were spiking in August with new cases averaging over 220 per day, California Congresswoman Anna Eshoo demanded answers from Ige.

Eshoo, who chairs a U.S. House subcommittee on health matters, wrote that she was concerned for Hawaii, particularly since a whistleblower had come forward to say the state’s contact tracing effort was woefully inadequate. By the end of that month, 70 people had died of the virus. The death toll is now over 250. 

The congresswoman asked for information, like: How many contact tracers are there really? What is the state’s response to the whistleblower’s claims? How has Hawaii been spending federal funding? 

Hawaii’s response was due Aug. 28. But exactly what Ige told the congresswoman is still a mystery to the public. Ige’s office didn’t answer multiple Civil Beat requests for his response….

It’s been over two months since I asked for investigative files regarding two former employees in the Department of Planning and Permitting who were accused of wrongdoing.

One employee was accused of “serious misconduct” and “potential ethics violations” in the course of their work issuing building permits. The other allegedly threatened someone with bodily harm. That’s according to letters the city did provide in response to a records request, although the letters give no detail of the events and names are redacted. 

Both employees were placed on leave – with pay – for over two years, according to the Human Resources department. And within days of Civil Beat publishing a story about city employees on paid leave, including references to these cases, both employees abruptly resigned, HR said. …

it’s been about a year and a half since Honolulu City Council members budgeted $23 million to address homelessness in each of their districts, plus extra funds for Waianae, which has a high number of unsheltered people. 

The capital funds were intended to establish shelters, outreach centers and affordable housing units to help address Oahu’s homelessness crisis. As of January, there were at least 4,400 homeless people living on the island, according to the Point In Time count. 

So where was all that money spent? Honolulu won’t say. 

In June, I requested records from Honolulu’s Department of Budget and Fiscal Services that would show how the funds were allocated. Six months later, BFS has not released a single record. 

“We have received the request and it is being worked on as resources permit,” BFS secretary Donnie Wong said in an email last month.

Ige’s suspension of public records provisions was one of the most extreme anti-transparency measures in the country when the pandemic began. Since then, he softened his proclamation’s language and encouraged agencies to respond to requests. But without enforceable deadlines, requesters have little ability to hold agencies’ feet to the fire….

Related:

read … The Sorry State Of Public Information In Hawaii

First 37,000 COVID Shots Coming to Hawaii

KITV: … Department of Health estimates the state will receive 12,000 vaccines from Pfizer and 25,000 from Moderna later this month….

In response to concerns of ultra cold storage needed for the Pfizer vaccine, health officials say they're able to store and transport 5,000 vaccines in a thermo-insulated box with dry ice and have them directly shipped to hospitals and healthcare providers across the islands….

read … Which healthcare workers, nursing home residents should get a COVID-19 vaccine first?

Schatz vs Ige: ‘You find the money’ ‘No, YOU find the money’

HNN: … “I am alarmed that there does not seem to be a plan yet for how to fully fund the contact tracing program after December 30. I urge you to maintain the expanded contact tracing program beyond the end of the year and to utilize all available resources to do so. Now is not the time to let our foot off the pedal—we must do all we can to keep the number of new cases low and protect the health of the residents of Hawaiʻi,” Sen. Schatz wrote.

He also requested an update on how the Department of Health has used some $50.2 million from the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act for contact tracing, testing, and other efforts to gain the upper hand on the virus.

In a statement, Gov. Ige responded by saying, “We share Sen. Schatz’s concerns and hope that he and Hawai’i’s Congressional delegation are working to secure additional federal funding so that we can continue the COVID-19 contact tracing program and importantly, distribute the vaccines into our community.”

The governor continued, saying there is a plan to continue contact tracing, but still wants more federal money for the state.

“While the state has developed plans to continue contact tracing and deploy vaccines after federal funds end on December 30, we implore Sen. Schatz and the delegation to help us secure more federal aid so we can manage the virus and distribute the vaccines to keep our kama’āina safe,” Gov. Ige said…. 

read … Schatz to Ige: How will the state fund contact tracing after federal money expires?

Has The Hawaii Tourism Industry Lost Its Clout?

CB: … The last weeks of November were particularly cruel for Hawaii’s tourism industry. At a time when the industry was starting to recover thanks to Gov. David Ige’s pre-travel test program that lets travelers sidestep a 14-day quarantine, the governor delivered the industry a double whammy.

First, on Nov. 18, Ige changed the program’s rules in a move that shocked hospitality executives: travelers without a negative test in hand upon arriving would have to stay locked up for 14 days, even if the test indicated the traveler didn’t have the virus when the result came in.

Then, the day after Thanksgiving, Ige gave Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami the green light to opt out of the program and require all travelers to quarantine for 14 days, regardless of whether they passed a test saying they were free of COVID-19….

read … Has The Hawaii Tourism Industry Lost Its Clout?

Kauai travel rules bring job, revenue losses

SA: … The Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa, the Garden Isle’s largest hotel, which employs about 900 people at full capacity, is closing again Monday. The Sheraton Kauai also has made the decision to close again and doesn’t plan to reopen until next year.  Airlines have begun cutting Kauai schedules.….

(Goal: Make unemployed workers move to Vegas so rich chemophobes can have the island  to themselves.)

read … Kauai travel rules bring job, revenue losses

Surgeon general, aide shouldn’t be prosecuted, tour guide says

SA: … U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams and his aide, whom police cited at an Oahu beach park in late August for allegedly violating an emergency order during a shutdown of the island’s beach parks, should not be prosecuted, said an attorney who spoke on behalf of a tour guide who took the men to the park.

“Why are they going after the admiral who came here to help us?” said attorney Eric Seitz, who is representing Kelmer Beck. “It’s just outrageous.”

A jury trial potentially may be held in the coming months for Adams and his aide, Dennis Anderson-Villaluz, for the alleged emergency order violation, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $5,000 fine, a year in jail or both. Attorney Michael Green is representing the two men….

At a hearing Tuesday at Circuit Court, Judge Rowena Somerville granted a continuance at Green’s request on court proceedings in Adams’ and Anderson-Villaluz’s case, resulting in postponement of the trial, which is now tentatively scheduled for March. The jury trial was originally scheduled for Dec. 14.

“This case continues to be an embarrassment to this state and the good people of Hawaii,” Green said after the hearing. He plans to file motions arguing the emergency order statute that police cited Adams for alleged violating is “unconstitutionally vague.”….

read … Surgeon general, aide shouldn’t be prosecuted, tour guide says

Hawaii Public Schools Keep Losing Students Amid Coronavirus Concerns

CB: … Hawaii’s public schools lost 1,023 more students in the first quarter of the school year as coronavirus concerns kept many parents from sending their children back to class, according to the state Department of Education.

The latest figures from the DOE for the first quarter, which ended on Oct. 2, show a more than seven fold drop in enrollment from the same period last year, continuing a sharp decline that has seen overall enrollment drop to 161,468, excluding charter schools….

The DOE memo also notes that it anticipates a larger number of Title I-eligible schools next year, measured by the percent of kids who qualify for free or reduced lunch, due to the economic toll of the pandemic on families. Officials say the number of Title I schools could jump from 181 to 193, which would be nearly two-thirds of all public schools.

“While our enrollment has decreased, a larger number of our families are living in poverty, and the needs of our students in our total population is growing as we are seeing in the number of schools that qualify for Title I,” the memo states….

Related: Acellus: Opposition Movement Could Cost Hawaii Schools $272 Million

read … Hawaii Public Schools Keep Losing Students Amid Coronavirus Concerns

First affordable housing walk-up under ‘Bill 7′ now in the works in Liliha

HNN: … An old home in Liliha is being transformed into a 25-unit walkup rental complex.

It’s the city’s first reconstruction project under Bill 7, which provides property tax incentives to developers to encourage more affordable rentals.

Building permit and wastewater collection fees are also waived, and buildings can also build higher and wider with no parking requirements….

The project on Pu’uhue Place will have units going for about $1,100 a month, which is less than 80% of the Area Median Income….

SA: Nine applications totaling 214 units have been submitted to DPP seeking the incentives.

KITV: CITY LEADERS SAY AN ORDINANCE MEANT TO HELP CREATE MORE AFFORDABLE HOUSING ON O'AHU IS WORKING

read … First affordable housing walk-up under ‘Bill 7′ now in the works in Liliha

DoE Exec: “Audit was best thing that happened in my career” 

STN: … He said his greatest accomplishment throughout his career occurred in 2013 following a “scathing management audit” report that was released by the state auditor.

“That report concluded that the Hawaii Department of Education lost all control of its pupil transportation program, causing uncontrolled spending on inflated contracts created by poor management, a disjointed organization, lack of professional development, and outdated practices,” Kauhi recalled.

In response, the HIDOE launched an aggressive reform initiative called “Get On Board,” which deconstructed and reconstructed all phases of its entity.

“From procurement methodologies and contracting practices to contract performance management and the use of technology to plan and optimize bus routes,” he explained. “It was an aggressive strategic plan that many doubted would work.”

However, in a span of just under seven years, Kauhi said the HIDOE:

  • Increased competition in the bid market, thereby driving down contract costs by many millions annually.
  • Increased contractor performance through the use of data collection and analysis.
  • Dramatically reduced the number of school bus units contracted through route optimization technology.
  • Created a highly efficient organization that is transparent in all of its business practices.

“And it wasn’t easy,” Kauhi confessed. “But I have to admit that the management audit of our agency was probably the best thing that happened to me in my career. Because it brought this need to look internally and look hard at what we do and how we do it.” …

read … Retiring Hawaii Leader Encourages Industry to ‘Stop Living on an Island’

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