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Saturday, April 24, 2021
April 24, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:53 PM :: 2511 Views

Legislative Audit of OHA’s Limited Liability Companies Cancelled

Neighborhood Board Election Begins Monday, April 26

Hawaii Republicans Set Annual Convention 

HART Board Members Propose Middle Street end for Oahu’s rail line

SA: … The question of halting the city’s troubled rail project at Middle Street — rather than pushing forward to Ala Moana Center — was advocated before the rail board’s directors Friday after members were told that cost-cutting efforts still will leave rail 80% short of plugging its $3.5 billion deficit.

Board member Joe Uno quoted the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation’s own plans calling its Lagoon Drive station “the most practical location to transfer to and efficiently route connecting rail access services.”….

“Let’s consider this carefully, because we already have a plan to provide a multimodal mass transit system embedded in our current operating plan,” Uno said. “Stopping at Middle Street does not necessarily render the investment we’ve already made useless. It actually enhances the dividends from the money.

“Searching for another $3.6 billion and a decade of time, what could the city use that money for otherwise?” Uno asked. “Fixing roads and bridges and addressing homelessness and bringing broad band access to the city? Paying our city employees better? We might be able to pay down some of our unfunded liabilities that threaten to bankrupt us, and we can pay our fire and police and EMTs adequately so that they don’t leave us.” …

“I just want to express my concern that building rail all the way to Ala Moana at any and all cost is just simply not reasonable, nor is it fiscally responsible,” Iwasa said. “Somewhere along the line, other alternatives should be reviewed and discussed publicly so that we make the best multimodal transportation project that we can within the resources that we have. … Somewhere along the line, somebody needs to really evaluate where we’re at and where we’re going.”….

No proposal resulted from the discussion, and Uno told the Star-Advertiser that whether to stop the project at Middle Street is up to the City Council….

During Friday’s hearing, Lynn McCrory, the board’s Human Resources Committee chairwoman, reported that Kahikina met or exceeded expectations during her first quarterly review of four issues, but offered no details of the evaluation.

Kahikina was evaluated on her interaction with the board, external relationships, internal relationships and general management and will be evaluated again for her performance in the current quarter.

Kahikina has said she wants the permanent job. Her predecessor, Andrew Robbins, did not have his three-year contract renewed at the end of the year after serving as the city’s highest-paid employee…..

read … Middle Street end for Oahu’s rail line is discussed 

HB862: 30% Increase in TAT to 13.25% 

SA: … Legislative cutbacks could raise the cost of a Hawaii vacation when the state’s tourism economy is trying to rebound from the pandemic-related plunge.

State legislators are expected to advance HB 862 to Gov. David Ige. The bill eliminates the $103 million county share of the transient accommodations tax but allows the counties to raise their own TAT up to 3% for up to a 10-year period.

The TAT rate is currently 10.25% of the gross rental proceeds on any transient accommodation. If the counties choose to implement the roughly 30% increase, it would raise the TAT to 13.25%.

If the change had been made in March, it would have added at least $9 to the daily cost of a hotel room, based on a $285 average daily rate. However, the potential increases ranged from a low of at least $5 a night on Oahu, where the March ADR was $184, to a high of $14 on Maui, where the March ADR was $466….

read … Bill could raise costs of vacationing in Hawaii

Measure to defer salary increase for Hawaii officials advances

SA: … A measure that would defer 10% pay raises for state legislators advanced Friday to a final reading next week.

The bill that passed out of conference committee suddenly Friday included funding for the state reapportionment commission. It also would postpone different pay raises for the governor, department heads and judges to Jan. 1, 2023.

In 2019, before the COVID- 19 pandemic, the state Salary Commission recommended that legislators receive pay raises of 10% and subsequent raises of 2.5% over the following three years. The raises were postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic and were scheduled to go into effect July 1….

read … Measure to defer salary increase for Hawaii officials advances

United Public Workers’ bargaining units divided on ratifying labor agreement

SA: … A misinformation campaign on social media is blamed for the failure of a bargaining unit of public-sector workers to ratify a collective bargaining agreement that led to missing a key legislative deadline.

United Public Workers/AFSCME Local 646 announced Friday that Bargaining Unit 1, made up of between 8,000 and 9,000 state and county blue-collar, nonsupervisory workers, ratified the agreement by the Friday deadline.

But Bargaining Unit 10, made up of about 2,500 to 3,000 public institutional, health and corrections workers, rejected the agreement by a narrow margin.

Much of the misinformation was on the issue of medical insurance premiums, and ultimately Unit 10 rejected the contract proposal.

“When members called the union or called negotiating team members, members said they were being misled and misinformed,” UPW Administrator Liz Ho said. “It was an attack on Facebook and Instagram.”

Bargaining Unit 1 ratified the agreement, which locks in the contribution split of medical plan premiums paid 60% by employer and 40% by employee on Hawaii Medical Service Association’s 80-20 plan (where HMSA covers 80% of the medical bill and the member pays 20%)….

One post erroneously said, “They want to make … our medical go from 80/20 to 50/50.”

A corrections officer posted similar false information, saying employees would pay half the medical premiums, and added another falsehood that all hazard pay would be denied….

Union negotiators managed to stave off any pay cuts, and got an agreement to reopen negotiations July 1, 2022, to discuss possible wage increases.

Ho said that due to the pandemic, the employer initially offered a 9.23% pay cut effective July 1, with a restoration of pay after four years….

considered until the 2022 session, unless a special session is called.

The Bargaining Unit 10’s contract expires June 30, and UPW will speak with employers about extending the contract and continuing negotiations.

“If we cannot come up with an agreement by that time and we are at an impasse … Unit 10, because of the jobs we hold, we’re not able to strike. We have to continue working,” said Lorena Kashiwamura, secretary of the Unit 10 executive negotiations committee and a member.

She said the matter will then go to arbitration. A neutral third-party arbitrator will hear both sides and make the decision for the members.

“Members will not be allowed to vote,” she said.

Kashiwamura said that the smaller Bargaining Unit 10 held out and successfully went through arbitration the last time its contract was up four years ago….

(Translation: The arbitrator will give them a pay hike.) 

Related: Union Contract Talks: HGEA, UPW, UHPA Ratify and Reject--HSTA Still Holding Out

KITV: United Public Workers completes ratification vote on 2021 Collective Bargaining Agreements

read … United Public Workers’ bargaining units divided on ratifying labor agreement

HECO`s Proposed Stand-Alone Battery Designed to Double-Bill Ratepayers

IM: …  The Commission stated on February 27, 2019, “HECO could potentially retire units (like the AES plant), and then replace them with batteries that are primarily with non-renewable generation. This would be a problem from both fossil fuel consumption as well as an economic perspective, given oil and renewables' respective avoided costs.” 

(Translation: We will pay for oil-fired electricity to charge the batteries and then pay again for the electricity from the batteries—charged at the price of oil-fired electricity.)

The Commission stated on February 27, 2019, “the Commission encourages the Companies, in conducting their portfolio evaluation and selection process, to ensure that stand-alone energy storage charged with fossil fuels is the last resort in meeting any capacity needs.”

“the Commission's review of the supporting information in the application confirms that under HECO's current utilization plan the battery system would charge with oil-fired generation both in the near- and long-term.”…

read … HECO`s Proposed Stand-Alone Battery Hits Self-Imposed Snags

Mayor: Chief won’t talk to me about police shootings

HNN: … “Despite my repeated attempts to contact Chief Ballard by telephone, she has failed to return my calls since last week Friday,” said Blangiardi. ”Chief Ballard’s failure to communicate is unacceptable.”

On April 5, officers shot and killed 16-year old Iremamber Sykap in McCully after a chase.

On April 14, 29-year old Lindani Miyeni was shot and killed in Nuuanu after a reported burglary.

Ballard did not show up for a press conference last Friday where the videos from police body cameras were released from the Miyeni case — an assistant chief briefed reporters instead.

And this past Wednesday at the police commission meeting, a deputy chief was tasked with answering questions about why body camera footage was not being released from the Sykap shooting….

Ballard is retiring on June first.

“If, for whatever reason, she doesn’t feel like she can initiate anything on this, then perhaps she should leave a little earlier and let someone else be the acting chief and let that person begin to take steps in what needs to be the right direction,” Lind said….

read … Mayor: It’s unacceptable that HPD chief isn’t ‘front and center’ on police shootings

New website soliciting stories and suggestions about city planning/permitting department

ILind: … Here’s a website that could grow into something very interesting:

The site is soliciting both stories of problems with Honolulu’s Department of Planning and Permitting, as well as suggestions for reforms. Both currently have only a few entries, but they are already interesting.

read … New website soliciting stories and suggestions about city planning/permitting department

O'ahu man says he still hasn't gotten unemployment help after filing weekly since December

KITV: … O'ahu resident, Kevin Campbell says he has been out of work for months because of the pandemic.

Even with his weekly filings, dating back to December, he says he hasn't gotten any financial help from the state's Unemployment Insurance (UI) department or assistance from staff.

"I've done every manner of calling them every morning like everybody else. Getting on the phone, trying to get in contact with them. Obviously, it rings and then it says it's too busy. Hang up call us back later." Campbell told KITV4. "But I've paid into the system since I was 16-years-old. And now in a time when I need the money, it's just a problem giving it to me." …

Last week, more than 3,600 initial UI claims were filed in the state. …

read … O'ahu man says he still hasn't gotten unemployment help after filing weekly since December

Lava recovery buyout program launches next Friday

HTH: … Puna property owners affected by the 2018 Kilauea eruption can apply for the county to buy their land starting next week.

On Friday, April 30, applications open for the Kilauea Disaster Recovery Voluntary Housing Buyout Program, which is funded by $83.8 million in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grants to purchase eruption-damaged land for up to $230,000. …

read … Lava recovery buyout program launches next Friday

Thanks to policy change, Hawaiian Home Lands loan program now available to farmers

HNN: … Officials with the Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Association said that since the program was enacted by Congress 20 years ago, …mortgages were only distributed for residential purposes.

…“There are more than 1,000 Native Hawaiians with farm or ranch trust land leases in every county, the impact potential is huge, to agriculture, to banks, to our local building industry,” Kualii said…..

read … Thanks to policy change, Hawaiian Home Lands loan program now available to farmers

DLNR Continues to Harass Shoreline Property Owners

SA: … Two wealthy Oahu homeowners face fines for doing unauthorized construction work on oceanfront state land to improve long-standing amenities for their residences.

The cases pursued by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources involve one homeowner who rebuilt a pier extending into Kaneohe Bay and another who replaced concrete stairs onto a beach at Diamond Head.

DLNR’s board is scheduled to consider fining both property owners close to $15,000 or more at a meeting this morning….

DLNR has an existing no- tolerance policy prohibiting construction of such things. However, the agency generally allows such structures, if they were built before modern prohibitions, to remain in use if they meet criteria that include having no discernible negative effects on public shoreline access, beach use, other recreational resources and adjacent property.

In the two cases under review, the homeowners asked DLNR for easements to permit the structures they intended to improve, but then did the improvement work without approval….

read … A pier, staircase on public land trigger dispute with private Oahu homeowners

Feds report people in Hawaii are scammed out of about $400 million per year

KITV: … Homeland Security Investigations report scams are also on the rise during the pandemic….

read … Feds report people in Hawaii are scammed out of about $400 million per year

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