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Thursday, June 3, 2021
June 3, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:11 PM :: 2313 Views

Taxes: How Hawaii Can Gouge Teleworkers

Hawaii pension funds are only 55% funded

Honolulu Rental and Utility Relief Program will reopen on Monday

UH Survey of Resident Attitudes on Tourism

Don't Let Oahu Become A Giant Slum

CB: … When I was a young boy in the early 1990s, as a military child I had the opportunity to travel outside of the United States into what was then impolitely termed “the Third World” or as we political scientists euphemistically say now, “Least Developed Countries.”

An interesting hallmark of many of these impoverished places is that they often feature opulent resorts where international tourists from wealthy nations can spend their money, and where, if one never left the walls of the compound, it would be easy to assume these countries were clean, aesthetically pleasing and free from all the worries of the world.

Of course, the minute one leaves the resort, it is as if one passes through a portal into a dimension of hellish sorrow, where the road immediately becomes flecked with potholes, the lush grass transitions into naked dirt strewn with trash, the air is putrid with mind-assaulting fecal odors and an oppressive squalor spans the entire countryside.

In such places, tourist zones are havens where everything is well-kept and people are on their best behavior, but the minute you leave, one sees the reality of the country.

Sadly, what was once a characteristic of the Global South is now almost an exact description of life here on Oahu. We have become so mercenary that, in years past, when the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference came to Hawaii, state and city officials were careful to spend millions of dollars to beautify only the major routes that diplomats would travel between the airport and Waikiki or Ko Olina, so as to give the impression that Hawaii was indeed, like the rest of the United States, clean, modern and elegant, unlike the poor countries we wag our fingers at….

read … Don't Let Oahu Become A Giant Slum

HART Asks The City To Borrow Up To $550 Million –They’ve Spent Most of it Already

CB: … It’s an awkward time to ask, but the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation wants the Honolulu City Council to authorize the city to borrow up to $550 million so HART can keep paying its rail contractors for the next year or so.

The beleaguered rail project is now running largely on borrowed money, and the HART board voted on May 21 to ask the city to issue up to $550 million in city-backed bonds to raise more cash so work on rail can continue under HART’s existing construction, design and other consulting contracts….

HART Chief Operating Officer Rick Keene told members of the the HART board last month that the rail authority pays out about $120 million to $180 million every three months, most of which goes to contractors building the rail operating system, the elevated guideway and the rail stations.

But HART receives considerably less than those amounts in excise and hotel tax collections each quarter. The rail authority was receiving $80 million to $90 million per quarter from the excise and hotel room tax sources before COVID-19 hit, but that revenue stream dropped to $68 million per quarter or less during the pandemic.

To make up the difference and pay the bills as they come due, HART has been borrowing using short-term debt known as tax-exempt commercial paper, or TECP.

That TECP line of credit was originally proposed a decade ago to be used only in a “worst case scenario” to help maintain the cash flow for rail, but since then has become an important part of HART’s finances.

The rail authority used that tool to borrow a total of $215 million last fall and this spring to cover its costs, and expects to use TECP to borrow another $60 million this month, Keene told members of the HART Finance Committee on May 21.

Keene said HART then plans to use the money raised by the proposed $400 million to $550 million city bond float for rail to pay off that short-term TECP debt. HART would receive another $100 million in net proceeds from the city bonds, he said, which will also help fund the project….

HART will then be able to tap the TECP line of credit again later to help cover its expenses for next year, and will likely ask the city administration and council to issue more city bonds in the fall of 2022, Keene said….

SA: Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation tax revenue $12M higher than expected

read … HART Asks The City To Borrow Up To $550 Million To Keep Rail Moving

HGEA Fail: Why Is It Still So Hard To Reach Hawaii’s Unemployment Office?

CB: … Every day, Hawaii’s unemployment call center receives 25,000 calls from about 6,000 unique numbers. Of those, about 800 calls are actually answered.

More than a year into the pandemic, many Hawaii residents are still struggling with the state’s outdated unemployment insurance system. A frequent complaint from last year — that the phones are tied up at the unemployment office — remains true for many callers.

“In one day I called the call center 75 times and not once have I gotten through,” said Candace Pacheco, a 35-year-old Kalihi resident….

read … Why Is It Still So Hard To Reach Hawaii’s Unemployment Office?

Give Hawaii’s Capitol Back To Its People

CB: … Our beloved State Capitol Building — the “people’s house” — remains closed to the general public despite the large influx of tourists and the freedoms that Honolulu residents are presently able to enjoy under Tier 3 of the county’s phased reopening. While residents can throw beach parties or mingle freely at bars, they are forbidden from directly engaging with the officials they have elected into public office….

May 15, 2021: Rep Ward: "It's clearly time to open up the State Capitol"

read … Give Hawaii’s Capitol Back To Its People

COVID Crooks: Hawaii County Council Slush Funds Being Audited by Feds

HTH: … Hawaii County has received its first installment of a $39 million federal stimulus package and County Council members are brimming with ideas on how to spend it (to get themselves reelected).

Puna Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz set the stage Tuesday, during a Planning Committee discussion on community development districts. Her vision, she said, is to get the CDP plans in place so the county can start investing in community infrastructure and economic development.

“We have so much federal dollars coming our way,” Kierkiewicz said. “Get ready, guys. I’m ready to spend. Are you guys ready?”….

Puna Councilman Matt Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder added to the conversation with questions on how to bring community (campaign team) involvement into the spending plans.

“I want this to be more of a community (campaign team) effort to guide this decision-making,” he said, asking Finance Director Deanna Sako whether the council has the authority to direct spending of federal grants.

“Can the council move these funds to areas we see fit regardless of the administration’s desire?” he asked (without laughing).

Sako threw a wet blanket on the council’s enthusiasm for spending the federal dollars.

“I’m not saying the council cannot direct, but when it comes to federal grants, there are so many restrictions,” Sako said.

When the much larger federal relief money came through last year, the County Council allocated $100,000 (slush fund) to each of its members to direct to (reelection) relief projects in their districts.

That’s not likely to happen this year.

Sako said the county is currently going through an audit of that previous spending, and “we’re having challenges with that.” ….

read … Seeking to steer stimulus: Council wants more say on American Rescue Plan

Honolulu Budget: City Council Approves

CB: … The operating budget is $39.8 million less than last year’s budget, not counting federal aid money. The capital budget is slightly higher than last year.

Council members made several adjustments to the budget proposal introduced by Blangiardi in March.

The council said it restored $100 million in capital funds for affordable housing development that had been on the chopping block. Homelessness is expected to increase with the expiration of the governor’s eviction moratorium this month, the Council said in a press release.

The council also replaced $2.6 million that the Blangiardi administration had intended to cut from homeless services….

KHON: Honolulu City Council passes measure for $25 per person Hanauma Bay visitor fees

read … Honolulu Budget: City Council Approves ‘Pathway Out Of The Pandemic’ 

Honolulu City Council votes to adopt first Climate Action Plan

SA: … Honolulu passed the city’s first-ever Climate Action Plan today, and it joins more than 9,000 cities around the world that have done the same.

In a unanimous vote, the Honolulu City Council passed a resolution to adopt the 2020-2025 One Climate One Oahu Climate Action Plan for the City and County of Honolulu to reduce Oahu’s greenhouse emissions to commit to the Paris climate agreement to reach carbon neutrality by 2045. The plan was created in response to another City Council resolution passed in 2018.

Prior to 2045, Honolulu would commit to cutting its carbon pollution by 45% by 2025 and 60% by 2035….

read … Honolulu City Council votes to adopt first Climate Action Plan

Shipments of COVID vaccines to Hawaii slow as demand drastically drops

KHON: … The last time the state accepted its total weekly allotment, just over 44,000 doses, was more than two weeks ago….

Records show on May 16, Oahu received about 36,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine while the Neighbor Islands got a little more than 8,000.

Since then, numbers have taken a nosedive.

This week, the state’s turning away more than 60% of it’s total allotment. Oahu requested just 16,000 doses. The Neighbor Islands didn’t place orders at all.

“For two weeks in a row, which is this week and next week, none of the Neighbor Islands have ordered the Pfizer trays,” Raethel said. “Now there is still some Moderna being distributed on the Neighbor Islands but that’s relatively small amounts.”…

DOH officials say 185 vaccination events are scheduled this month. That’s in addition to the more than 200 locations that are already out there….

State Department of Health spokesperson Brooks Baehr said the focus now and in the coming weeks is “generating more demand.”

As part of that, the state plans to launch an incentive program to bolster vaccinations. The state is expected to announce the details Friday, but it’s likely to include gifts from merchants and airline miles.

“Beyond the incentives we really want to generate interest by sharing good credible scientific information about just how safe these vaccines really are,” Baehr said….

KHON: Honolulu mayor on Tier 4: ‘We’re almost there’

read … Shipments of COVID vaccines to Hawaii slow as demand drastically drops

Survey finds changing attitudes in Hawaii regarding the pandemic

SA: … With the pandemic appearing to wane and the economy showing signs of life, many Hawaii residents have discovered a new attitude: optimism.

According to a statewide poll, most people think the coronavirus crisis is getting better and the government’s management of the situation is headed in the right direction.

In addition, fewer people are worried about family members getting sick than last summer when the number of coronavirus cases was starting to reach triple digits….

According to the survey, 67% of adult residents in the state think Hawaii government’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic is headed in the right direction, while only 23% said it was going in the wrong direction and 10% didn’t know….

read … Survey finds changing attitudes in Hawaii regarding the pandemic

Green: Few at Hilo correctional facility grappling with outbreak had gotten vaccinated

HNN: …  On Wednesday, DPS reported that the Hawaii Community Correctional Center added two new cases among staff members, bringing the total number of active employee cases to 11.

Meanwhile, there were 77 active cases in inmates.

HNN was outside HCCC on Tuesday as inmates got their noses swabbed for COVID-19. Some 340 people are incarcerated at the facility, which is far above capacity….

Green says many inmates are refusing to get vaccinated because they don’t trust government and science.

“There it’s down to 25% (vaccinated). It’s like night and day and until prisoners get vaccinated, we will see outbreaks,” said Green.

“Those who have gotten into trouble are not necessarily rule followers,” he added….

The Public Safety department says 140 shots have been administered to HCCC inmates, but says it doesn’t have a calculated the percentage of vaccinated since the prison population fluctuates….

“Many of them are mentally ill. Some of them are still loaded. So they quickly have to do health assessment, security assessments and tell them we are going to test you and do you want to get vaccinated. It’s really tough,” said Sakai….

(CLUE: Stop asking permission.)

After an outbreak among corrections officer recruits, there’s also debate over a vaccine mandate.

“Public safety should be working with human resources that if you want this job, you have to be vaccinated,” said Sakai….

(Wow.  What a concept!)

Green added: “It will create extra people to dig in. There will be lawsuits and I think there is a history of distrust.”  

(Now you know where the resistance is.)

read … Green: Few at Hilo correctional facility grappling with outbreak had gotten vaccinated

Prosecutors take no position on release of Miske co-defendant

ILind: … Federal prosecutors declined to take a position on whether Norman Akau III should be released from federal custody after agreeing to plead guilty to being part of a racketeering conspiracy allegedly controlled and directed by former Honolulu businessman Michael J. Miske, Jr….

Beverly Hills-based attorney Ronald Richards filed a motion in federal court on May 24 which revealed Akau has entered into a “fully executed plea agreement” with prosecutors, and requesting he be released on bond pending sentencing. A hearing on the motion is scheduled for Friday morning, June 4, before Magistrate Judge Kenneth Mansfield.

The court earlier approved the release of another of Miske’s co-defendants, Hunter Wilson, after his guilty plea was accepted by Judge Derreck Watson last month. Wilson is free pending sentencing, currently scheduled for January 2022….

July 2020: Miske Mob Were All Union Drivers on Set of Hawaii 5-0

read … Prosecutors take no position on release of Miske co-defendant

OHA Smells Opportunity: Police commission nominee tells Council he’s ‘never seen’ discrimination in Hawaii

HNN: … Mayor Rick Blangiardi’s latest appointee for the Honolulu Police Commission is facing considerable opposition.

(Race hustlers trying to claim HPD is prejudiced against Pacific Islanders when most officers are Pacific Islanders.)

Former Indiana police officer Larry Ignas was criticized by dozens of testifiers Wednesday for what they claimed was a potential bias toward officers and his lack of experience with minority communities.

He said most of his experience has been with his employees during his 30 years in Hawaii.

“Marshallese, Filipino, Hawaiians ― they all know I’ve been a fair boss. I’ve been a great guy toward them all and I don’t look at it racially. I treat everybody equal,” Ignas said, at the City Council.

He was asked by (OHA operative) Councilmember Esther Kiaaina: “But do you acknowledge that racial discrimination exists in Hawaii?” His response: “I have never seen any and I’ve been here 33 years.”… 

read … Embattled police commission nominee tells Council he’s ‘never seen’ discrimination in Hawaii

Probing Honolulu police shootings: releasing evidence now vs. fair trial

SA: … As the new Honolulu prosecuting attorney, I am committed to transparency and ensuring that defendants are both held accountable and have an impartial jury and a fair trial. I have heard calls for the immediate release of trial evidence, including police body-worn camera (BWC) footage, in the two recent officer-involved shootings in Nuuanu and on Kalakaua Avenue.

My office is conducting independent investigations of both cases. The results will be released to the public within the next 30 days. If we decide not to charge any police officers, I will publicly explain why not, and at that time, the BWC footage, 911 calls and police reports will be released. If we do decide to charge police officers, the evidence will also be released, some during the trial, and the remainder as soon as the trial in the case is concluded.

Why not release all the trial evidence, the BWC footage, now? The United States and Hawaii constitutions protect a defendant’s right to a fair trial and an impartial jury. That includes the right to a jury pool untainted by pretrial publicity. Those protections apply to everyone, including police officers….  

read … Probing Honolulu police shootings: releasing evidence now vs. fair trial

HPD Officer At The Center Of A $1 Million Wrongful Death Settlement Has A History Of Complaints

CB: … Cpl. Scott Valdez has faced criminal charges, which led to hung juries, two lawsuits that led to settlements and a Honolulu Police Commission complaint. …

read … HPD Officer At The Center Of A $1 Million Wrongful Death Settlement Has A History Of Complaints

SHOPO says officer shortage impacts patrols

HNN: … “We might have to do a little bit of adjusting,” Lutu said. “Maybe with certain other units maybe helping out during peak hours. But as you know, (the stabbing) wasn’t during peak hours. So it will probably stay the same, and officers would do the best they can out there.”

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said he plans to talk to the police chief about beefing up patrols.

“The police department right now is somewhat understaffed,” Blangiardi explained. “But, that’s not a reason why we can’t take care of this area the way that we should be.”

Lutu said the officer shortage will only get worse.

“It’s hard to attract candidates to do this job anymore,” he said.

Lutu said racial attacks, changes in laws that protected police officers and their families, being subjected to harsh criticism and being plastered on the news are to blame for the shortage….

“Overall, there is a shortage,” Lutu explained. “We’re about 300-plus short department wide, and as far as the Waikiki patrol, we’re running about 70% at the least per shift on the road.”…

read … Arrests made in two Waikiki stabbings; SHOPO says officer shortage impacts patrols

More Homeless Mayhem: Kalihi residents frustrated after fire ravages abandoned house

KHON: … Neighbors say they have been worried that something bad might happen there for years. After a fire on Sunday, May 30, they are even more afraid and want something done as soon as possible.

“I fear fire when I wake up in the morning. I fear fire at night when we go to bed because, what if it goes on fire again?” said CJ Domingo.

Domingo lives next to the abandoned house on Pohaku Street. She says it was bad enough when squatters were breaking into the home and staying there, but thieves were also ransacking the place to steal belongings.

“I also see this truck that would come and make-believe that the truck is broken. But they’ll be going to the house and taking whatever they need,” said Domingo….

She called the police, City and State agencies and got no response. The fire that engulfed the house was the last straw. She says her home was minutes away from catching fire.

“I’m really nervous, I don’t know what to do. I’ve called the authorities, I’ve called many people but they keep telling me I have to talk to the owners. But the owners are already deceased,” she said.

Domingo says the couple who owned the property died three years ago. They did not have children but had a relative on Maui. She learned that there was a reverse mortgage on the property.

KHON2 reached out to the attorney for the mortgage company and he did not want to comment. Records show that foreclosure proceedings are underway….

A spokesman for the Department of Planning and Permitting sent a statement saying, “The Department… has no record of complaints or violations at this address… Because of your inquiry, we plan to send an inspector to the property to investigate.”…

read … Kalihi residents frustrated after fire ravages abandoned house

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