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Saturday, January 23, 2021
January 23, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:54 PM :: 4714 Views

Supreme Court Suspends Katherine Kealoha's Boyfriend's Lawyer

Hawaii Ranked 'Worst State to Drive in'

Vaccination Rate: Hawaii Ranks 33rd

Rental Market: Troubling Signs Remain As State Prepares for an Uncertain 2021

Agribusiness Development Corp: "Costly, disorganized and ineffective"

"25 Years of PASH"

Let's get our voice back

Naming Names: Parade of former, current council members subpoenaed to testify in federal probe

HNN: … Former City Council members Ernie Martin and Trevor Ozawa arrived for federal grand jury proceedings Thursday along with current City Councilman Brandon Elefante….

Last month, former Councilman Ikaika Anderson also testified. He said he was asked about the $250,000 payoff for disgraced ex-Police Chief Louis Kealoha in 2017….

“If someone is saying, we didn’t need council approval then you go to the council and say, ‘OK in your opinion did they need council approval?’” Silvert said.

Silvert said the special prosecutor, assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Wheat, is being thorough by bringing in many officials.

The $250,000 payoff to get Kealoha to retire was seen by many as a settlement to avoid a lawsuit. A settlement of more than $5,000 must be approved by the City Council.

But supporters of the deal that the police commission worked out called it a severance instead. A severance does not require council approval….

Donna Leong was the city’s top civil attorney when the deal was done. She retired last year while on paid administrative leave after she received a target letter.

Roy Amemiya, who was the second in command as the managing director under former Mayor Kirk Caldwell, received a less serious subject letter from the DOJ.

Amemiya was also called to the grand jury as was his deputy, Georgette Deemer.

Manny Valbuena, who was the director of Budget and Fiscal Services under the previous administration, was also called twice along with his chief accountant, Nancy Abilay….

Silvert said Wheat would not spend this much time and call so many witnesses if he did not believe a crime was committed.

“He clearly believes by bringing in these high level people that something is there,” Silvert said. “I would take this as a sign that something’s going to come out soon from the grand jury.”…

read … Parade of former, current council members subpoenaed to testify in federal probe

Proposed Budget Cuts Would ‘Basically Gut’ Hawaii State Auditor’s Office

CB: … House Speaker Scott Saiki is proposing deep cuts to the budget for the state Auditor’s office, a watchdog agency that is tasked with holding state agencies accountable for their performance and use of taxpayer dollars.

State Auditor Les Kondo said the cuts would halve the budget for his office — from $3.2 million down to $1.52 million — and would force him to take steps such as laying off analysts or converting full-time workers to part time. Personnel costs alone for the office are $2.2 million, he said.

“It will really impair our ability to do really important work,” said Kondo, who is nearly five years into an eight-year term as auditor. “It will impact our ability to do our work substantially, and we have a lot of work.”

The proposed budget reductions for the auditor in House Bill 1 come days after Saiki circulated a memo announcing he is launching a review of the auditor’s office, citing what Saiki described as missed deadlines and “unnecessary litigation.” …

Former state Sen. Gary Hooser issued an email blast Friday afternoon floating the idea that Saiki might be punishing Kondo for a highly critical recent audit of the Agribusiness Development Corp.

“It is shocking really,” Hooser wrote. “The State Auditor comes out with what is arguably the strongest and most important audit of the year. Within 7 days, the Speaker of the House Scott Saiki calls for his head and for good measure chops his budget in half. What’s going on here?”…

By comparison, other agencies that fall under the Legislature such as the Legislative Reference Bureau, the Office of the State Ombudsman and the state Ethics Commission would each take 20% cuts under Saiki’s proposed budget….

What this is about: Saiki, Hanabusa Launch Attack on State Auditor to Save OHA’s Dirty Secrets

read … Proposed Budget Cuts Would ‘Basically Gut’ Hawaii State Auditor’s Office

Tax Hike Coming: Waters says balancing city’s $400 million budget deficit is top priority

SA: … With so many residents facing financial challenges, Waters said he does not want to raise taxes and is instead looking at other options like refinancing the city’s bonds, and not filling vacancies on the city payroll….

Waters said he will formally be meeting with Mayor Rick Blangiardi to discuss their priorities next week, and expects that the new mayor and city council will have a productive working relationship. The 2020 election meant vast changes to the council, with five new members, and comprised for the first time ever of a majority of women, and four Native Hawaiians, including Waters himself.

(Translation: Tax hikes are coming after a dog n pony show.)

read … Honolulu City Councilman Tommy Waters says balancing city’s $400 million budget deficit is top priority

New faces, same Covid plan

PBN: … Recently in this column, I urged Honolulu’s new mayor to scrap entirely the ad hoc tier system for reopening Honolulu that he inherited from Kirk Caldwell.

Not happening, said Rick Blangiardi in his first press conference as mayor on Jan. 14, though he says he wants to tweak it for clarity. What’s especially interesting is that it sounds like changing or scrapping the city’s emergency rules isn’t even under control of a Honolulu mayor.

“I know there’s a certain amount of fatigue involved with the tier system,” Blangiardi said, “but as I’ve promised the governor — I’m understanding it takes the governor’s authorizations to make any changes there — that right now, especially in the aftermath of where we were a week ago when we had that spike in cases of 322, we’re just steady as she goes right now.”…

read … New faces, same Covid plan

Food Basket reports ‘significant’ decrease in number of people served in Kona

HTH: … The Food Basket has noticed a sizable drop in the number of people being serving via its monthly Ohana Food Drop in Kailua-Kona.

On Thursday, the nonprofit, National Guard members and volunteers filled vehicles hundreds of vehicles at Old Kona Airport Park with enough protein, vegetables, fruit, rice and other staples to feed 2,615 people. That’s down from almost 3,700 in September, 3,200 in October, 4,000 in November and 3,200 in December….

Frost Albrecht said the nonprofit is hearing from many of those it is serving that few in Kona are back to full-time work.

“Mostly it’s part-time and temporary jobs,” she said.

According to the most recent unemployment data released by the state, Hawaii Island’s unemployment rate stood at 9.8% in November, down from 13.5% in October and September. In April, as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, 23.3% of the island’s workforce was unemployed. Between April and November, the number of unemployed residents dropped from 20,750 to 8,850.

The “significant” decrease seen in Kona hasn’t been observed elsewhere on the island, Frost Albrecht said, adding that Kona is “unusual compared to the rest of the island.” On Friday, 2,600 people were served in Pahoa, and earlier this week in Hilo, more than 3,500 people were served.

“I think we’re seeing the benefits of the tourist economy come back on the Kona side,” she said…..

read … Food Basket reports ‘significant’ decrease in number of people served in Kona

60,000 Shots Sitting in Fridge

MN: … Maui’s COVID-19 vaccination sites may have been giving intended second doses of the vaccine to people seeking their first shot, though Hawaii’s health director said this was “completely appropriate.”

“We’ve been sending both second doses and first doses to each of the counties,” Director Dr. Libby Char said Friday afternoon. “I think depending on how the allocation was made on Maui they may have used a lot of the first and second doses for first doses, so now they are using what is coming in for second doses, and that’s completely appropriate. We don’t want to be sitting on any doses just waiting for that four weeks to go by to give it.”…

Char said Maui County received 4,450 doses this week and is expected to receive 4,100 doses in the coming week….

The state of Hawaii has received a total of 154,150 doses and administered 70,095, according to Department of Health data updated Wednesday to reflect the totals from Sunday.

Maui County has administered 10,195 COVID-19 vaccines, second to Honolulu County with 39,886. Hawaii County has administered 7,011 and Kauai County has given out 5,328.

On Friday, the state said preliminary numbers showed that 94,003 vaccines had been administered, an increase of 6,338 from Thursday. It did not specify county totals.

The Health Department’s website also does not break down vaccinations separately for Molokai and Lanai.

The Maui District Health Office said Friday that it has administered 4,526 vaccines on Maui, 240 on Molokai and 220 on Lanai. However, these numbers are separate from the vaccines given out by Maui Health, Molokai General Hospital and pharmacies that have been assisting long-term care facilities.

Bridget Velasco, public health planner with the Maui District Health Office, said the department’s mobile health units have dispensed 346 vaccines….

Reality: Vaccination Rate: Hawaii Ranks 33rd

SA: Hawaii’s vaccine rollout climbs past 94,000

read … Health director: Intended second doses went to 1st doses instead

Molokai moves to Age 65+ COVID-19 vaccines

MN: … Molokai General Hospital began its first community clinic for COVID-19 vaccinations this week and has already offered shots to those in a tier ahead of the statewide curve.

“Late this morning we moved to include 1c, which includes people ages 65 and over,” said Jan Kalanihuia, president of Molokai General Hospital, in an email Friday afternoon….

Since the clinic began Thursday, Molokai General has administered 410 shots, many to kupuna, Kalanihuia said. The clinic started out with Phase 1a, which includes health care personnel, and Phase 1b.

“Right now, we are focused on giving as many vaccinations as we can with safety being our highest priority,” she added.

Hospital employee vaccinations began Dec. 23….

read … Molokai moves to next phase of COVID-19 vaccines

Next Boondoggle: Estimated price tag for Ala Wai flood prevention project doubles to $650M

HNN: … The US Army Corps of Engineers says a financial analysis has raised the cost from about $345 million to more than $650 million — far more than what’s been approved by Congress….  The project was already redesigned after public complaints about major construction in old neighborhoods. Now, the higher price could force it back to the drawing board again….

SA: Officials balk at near-doubling of price of Ala Wai Flood Risk Management Project

KHON: Ala Wai flood project more expensive than expected

Reality: Ala Wai? Corps of Engineers has Long History of Corruption and Cost Overruns

read … Estimated price tag for Ala Wai flood prevention project doubles to $650M

Hawaii’s Land Board cracks down on illegal seawalls

SA: … The situation has grown particularly tense on Oahu’s North Shore where iconic beaches have increasingly become littered with illegal boulders, walls and emergency sandbags and tarps churned up and ripped apart by powerful waves.

Famous surfer Liam McNamara and wife Brandee were facing fines of $35,000 for a seawall fronting their Sunset Beach home. Officials with the Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands said the original wall, built decades ago, was never authorized, and previous property owners had repaired it many times without permission. When the wall largely failed last year, the McNamaras brought in a cement truck to reinforce it and rebuilt parts of the structure. ….

Sam Lemmo, who has led the coastal lands office for two decades, told the Land Board that the home had been distressed for years, and he was clear about what effect walls will have on the treasured North Shore beaches.

“If you allow them to build seawalls, I guarantee you, I put my career on this, this beach resource is going to be gone for the next generation … for this generation. And this is not acceptable,” he said. “This is not a beach resource (for tourism—editor) that we can just let go. It’s too valuable.”…

(Translation : Tourism vs land speculation.)  

HNN: The land board also issued a fine of $80,000 against Molokai activist George Peabody

read … Hawaii’s Land Board cracks down on illegal seawalls

New HART Board Member Wants A Fraud Hotline

CB: … An outside auditor for HART describes Natalie Iwasa’s idea for a hotline as a “best practice.” …

read … New HART Board Member Wants A Fraud Hotline

Feds charge suspected accomplice of ‘Proud Boys Hawaii’ founder in U.S. Capitol riot

SA:  … A man seen with the founder of “Proud Boys Hawaii” in photos and videos posted on various social media platforms at the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 violent siege has been federally charged for unlawful entry.

Nicholas DeCarlo, also known as Dick Necarlo and Dick Lambaste, has been charged with obstructing or impeding any official proceeding, knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and parading or demonstrating on Capitol grounds, according to a criminal complaint filed earlier this week at federal court in the District of Columbia.

The FBI identified DeCarlo through photos and videos posted on Twitter, Telegram and YouTube before, during and after the riot….

In 2017, NBC Left Field of NBC News interviewed a group of Proud Boys in Texas that include DeCarlo….

Background: Hawaii Republican Candidate Arrested at Airport--Allegedly Photographed Attacking Capitol

PDF: Charges 

read … Feds charge suspected accomplice of ‘Proud Boys Hawaii’ founder in U.S. Capitol riot

Hawaii lawmakers push to legalize marijuana for personal use

KITV: …The bill would allow people to have up to an ounce of cannabis. It would also create a process for cultivators to grow and sell marijuana which would then be taxed by the state. State house representative Jeanne Kapela and other lawmakers KITV4 spoke with Friday, believe the move could generate at least $150 million in revenue for the state at a time when the state is in desperate need of money….

Click here to read the full House Bill 7….

read … Hawaii lawmakers push to legalize marijuana for personal use

More Homeless Mayhem: Bums Take over Walgreens Flagship Store

HNN: … Since the Walgreens on Kapiolani Boulevard shut down, those who live and work in the area say it’s been overrun by homeless campers.

“I have been dealing with all the restaurant’ complaints, homeless is entering to the businesses scaring everybody,” said Parking Attendant Supervisor, Berlynn Waiau. “I actually got myself threatened by a homeless last week by a knife.”

When it opened in 2015, it was a modern beauty across from Ala Moana.

Now, six years later, it’s empty of business, and covered in graffiti.

Wrylo Agno, owner of Pandora Café Karaoke/Bar & Grill said the property’s condition is affecting his business, which is located right behind the building on Makaloa Street.

“I’m very, very upset, I lose sleep at night [and] I’m edgy during the day,” said Agno. “I constantly check my cameras making sure they’re not [putting] graffiti over my door or throwing a block to break past my glass.” …

In 2017, a Korean investment firm bought the property for more than $42 million….

DPP said based on Hawaii News Now’s inquiry they will send an inspector to determine if there are any building or zoning violations.

May 6, 2020: State Supreme Court: Victims of Homeless Criminals May Sue Those Who Enable Homelessness

read … Old Walgreens building on Kapiolani has become an eye sore, neighbors and businesses are desperate for help

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