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Tuesday, May 25, 2021
May 25, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:51 PM :: 2781 Views

HECO Urges COVID Deadbeats to Set up Payment Plan

Public Hearing for Maui County Firing Range

Mayor Victorino offers sneak peak of Governor Ige’s Tuesday press conference

Fixing Hawaii's COVID-19 citation nightmare

Without the Jones Act we Would Starve

Surprise: Caldwell Lied about Important Agricultural Lands Law

CB: … More that 40 years in the making, Hawaii’s Important Agricultural Lands law is designed to preserve productive agriculture land and provide incentives for land owners to help expand Hawaii’s agriculture economy and increase agricultural self-sufficiency.

But, despite an effort for Oahu land that’s been in the works for years, many property owners are angry, saying they’ve been caught by surprise and that the city has blundered.

Among the 1,800 affected owners are residents who say their family has been living in their houses for generations on land they’re suddenly being told they’re supposed to farm.

The Hawaii Land Use Commission is in the awkward position of having to approve a plan that many say is flawed. The commission could reject the plan outright despite years of work by city officials, or find some middle ground….

Whether the city’s public meetings were adequate to fulfill a statutory requirement is one issue the commission is considering.

The April 2015 meeting was the first public meeting on the city’s plan to map out parcels to designate as IAL. The meeting was important enough that then-Mayor Kirk Caldwell showed up, along with George Atta, director of the Department of Planning and Permitting. Although the mayor’s team and their consultants spent hours briefing the public, there was one problem: not everything the city said about how the new law could affect landowners was precisely accurate.

Specifically, among other things, the city said, the law doesn’t affect permitted uses of land under state law. Fast forward six years, and the Department of Planning and Permitting’s deputy director told the Hawaii Land Use Commission something different.

The law “does appear to create relatively greater restrictions on farm dwellings and employee housing on IAL designated lands,” Dawn Takeuchi Apuna, the department’s deputy director, said during an April 29 hearing….  

CB: (UPDATE May 26, 2021) Plan for Important Agricultural Lands’ Is On Hold Pending An AG Opinion

CB: Small Oahu Landowners Say They Were Blindsided By Ag Land Plan

read … The Fight Over Hawaii’s ‘Important Agricultural Lands’

Opponents pleased with ruling: State Supreme Court remands Honua Ola case to PUC

HTH: … Eddins wrote that the PUC’s order rescinding the competitive bidding waiver “flow(ed) from a faulty premise” that the high court’s 2020 decision “nullified the 2017 waiver when, in fact, the … opinion presumed the existence of that very same waiver.”

Lee said the remand to the PUC allows all parties to “just go forward from there and do what the order says — look at the greenhouse gas analysis (and) let Life of the Land and others participate fully.”

“We are also thankful for the court’s clarification that the 2017 waiver from competitive bidding remains valid and in force,” Lee said, and added that 30-some Honua Ola employees are still on the active payroll.

“We’re moving along the path of getting the plant operational,” he said. “We’re still 99% complete. We’ve got to do some construction work, then the commissioning work. I think it’s going to be great economically for Hawaii Island when this plant goes into operation, because it’s not only jobs at the plant, but contracting jobs — and the high potential for spinoff industries like woodworking, sawmills, ranching, farming.”

Henry Curtis, executive director of Life of the Land, said his group also is “pleased with the ruling by the Hawaii Supreme Court” regarding Honua Ola.

“The Hawaii Supreme Court in essence asserted that the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission cited the wrong legal provision in denying the waiver. Now the PUC can go back and reissue their decision citing the correct standard,” Curtis said.

Associate Justice Michael Wilson wrote a concurring opinion stating his purpose in doing so is “to clarify that the majority’s decision gives discretion to the PUC to determine again whether a waiver of competitive bidding should be granted to (HECO).”…

read … Parties pleased with ruling: State Supreme Court remands Honua Ola case to PUC

College Enrollment Dropping

CB: … The state historically has seen a 55% college enrollment rate. That dropped to 50% for the Class of 2020, according to data compiled by the Hawaii P-20 Partnerships for Education. While this year’s statewide college enrollment data won’t be available until later this year, some indicators point to a downward trend.

For instance, the completion rate for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA, is down from last year.

As of May 7, 53% of graduating seniors had completed the form compared with 56% of seniors at the same time last year. In 2019, the statewide FAFSA completion rate was over 58%.

“Historically there has been a strong correlation between FAFSA completion and college enrollment,” said Stephen Schatz, executive director of Hawaii P-20. “We don’t know what the college-going rate will be (this year) but we’re a bit nervous.” …  

SA Editorial: Invest in students to boost economy

read … High School Seniors ‘Persevered’ Through COVID-19 But Face An Uncertain Future

UH May be Able to recoup Budget Cuts from Other Funds

HTH: … Lassner said he discussed with Ige different ways the governor might be able to help, and will be talking with the UH Board of Regents and legislators.

“We’re studying all of our options.”

The hope is to avoid furloughs and workforce reductions where the university can, Lassner said.

“But we don’t know if that will be possible at this level of reduction. So, I don’t want to make out that this is easy,” he said. “It is certainly not where we expected to be during the spring as we saw the economy improving and as we saw what we thought was pretty good news based on what the budgets looked like.”

Lassner, however, said some of the cuts could be restored in the second year of the biennium.

“The governor may also have access to some other kinds of funds that he can help with, but we’re not helpless,” he said. “We also want to look at all of our sources of funding. We need to be accountable and responsible, to use all the resources we have, to do so effectively, to reduce costs where ever we have.”

But the largest portion of the UH budget goes to payroll, Lassner said.

“So, ways that we can contain our payroll expenses have to be part of it, and some of that is about reorganizing and … we would like to protect our current workforce to the extent possible,” he said….

read … ‘Studying all of our options’: Lassner talks looming budget cuts for UH

TMT foes challenge declaration that work has begun

SA: … The Mauna Kea Hui filed a motion Monday with the Board of Land and Natural Resources demanding that the contested case hearing be reopened.

The board signed off on an April 28 letter from permit applicant University of Hawaii at Hilo declaring that TMT construction has started in compliance with permit conditions.

But Monday’s motion argues that the university “incorrectly represented” that the condition of the permit has been satisfied, and therefore a hearing should be held before the board….

read … TMT foes challenge declaration that work has begun

Floating Offshore Wind Turbines Proposed for Waikiki

IM: … a large floating wind farm 12-20 miles south of Waikiki. Each turbine would have its own platform.

For redundancy and reliability, two undersea cables would come onshore, one connecting to the Iwilei Substation near Costco and the other to a substation between the Airport and Campbell Industrial Park or Kahe.

There would be a planning dilemma. If HECO put out a Request for Proposal, large-scale solar developers could respond within a matter of months. The wind project would take years, involves cutting-edge technology under development, and has unknown costs.

The window to add 400-800 megawatts of offshore wind is a narrow one. The system would probably have to be planned for in the next few years and be operational between 2030-35.... 

AP: California, U.S. agree to allow big offshore wind farms

read … Floating Offshore Wind Turbines Proposed for O`ahu

State should reconsider vision for new stadium

SA: … Maybe it is time to rethink the vision. Instead of trying to build a better Aloha Stadium, why not build a better version of the Ching complex in Halawa?

A consideration should be to keep the field at Aloha Stadium, raze the surrounding stands and then, similar to the Ching project, install prefabricated metal-and-plastic bleachers. The new stadium initially could have portable bleachers to accommodate 25,000 spectators. If more seating is needed, place another order. Portable bleachers would be relatively inexpensive and quick to install. It also would save time and further studies to build the new Halawa stadium on the exact spot as the old one. A neighboring building could be constructed with locker rooms for the players and coaches, and restrooms for the fans….

BEST COMMENT: “Stephen Tsai has old data. In the 2021 legislative session the Legislature took $180 million away from the $350 million it had budgeted previously, so now there's only $170 million budgeted to build he stadium. Meanwhile, costs have increased, and the new estimate is $423 million to build it. The idea is that the private sector will come up with the difference of $253 million. In other words, there is no solid financial plan for the new stadium. The stadium is the new rail.”

read … State should reconsider vision for new stadium

Independent Samoa: China-Backed Ruler Refuses to Step Aside After Losing Election

AP: … Fiame’s election win was seen as a milestone not only for Samoa, which is conservative and Christian, but also for the South Pacific, which has had few female leaders.

An advocate for women’s equality, Fiame, who was born in 1957, broke new ground during her campaign by going on the road and robustly criticizing the incumbent.

She has pledged to stop a $100 million port development backed by Beijing, calling the project excessive for a nation that’s already heavily in debt to China, according to news broadcaster RNZ….

read … Samoa in crisis as elected leader locked out of Parliament

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