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Thursday, October 7, 2021
October 7, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:08 PM :: 2675 Views

RFP: HTA to Seek 'Politically Correct' Tourists Only

Where’s Isabella? Will Gerona Ouster Improve Handling of Missing Child Case?

KHON: … There has been a change of command this past weekend at HPD’s Criminal Investigation Division as Maj. Benjamin Moszkowicz took over while Maj. Stephen Gerona — the target of a harassment lawsuit and complaints — was re-assigned to the Legislative Liaison Office.

One lawsuit allegation against Gerona was that he discouraged a Maile Amber alert and early investigation when toddler Kytana Ancog was not returned by her father. Kytana was murdered, and the father was charged with the crime….

read … Improving Hawaii’s response to missing child cases takes multi-pronged approach

Honolulu Police Department to Unload Gerona Inquiry onto Blangiardi Admin

SA: … The Honolulu Police Department asked the city administration for help with an internal investigation into allegations that a major harassed and bullied subordinates who did not agree with his management style and decision-making.

Acting Chief Rade Vanic told the Honolulu Police Commission on Wednesday that the department is working with the city Equal Opportunity Office, the Corporation Counsel and the Department of Human Resources to address the accusations made by some officers in a lawsuit and confidential complaints that Maj. Stephen Gerona harassed them and retaliated against them for reporting his behavior.

Vanic did not address specifics of HPD’s Professional Standards Office investigation and told commissioners he would be more candid in executive session….

Colleagues of Gerona, who were not authorized to speak to the Star-Advertiser, say his old-school style adheres to HPD’s chain of command and his interactions are primarily with captains. The officers accusing him of wrongdoing are several ranks removed from Gerona and would not normally interact with him. CARES act funding that paid for overtime and COVID-19 enforcement created additional work and forced commanders to make difficult decisions about staffing that subordinate officers did not always agree with, police said.

Some of the complaints against Gerona stemmed from his efforts to ensure that officers did not use overtime funds created by COVID-19 to pad earning formulas with the state Employees’ Retirement System.

HPD supervisors are expected to to curtail such activities, known as “spiking.” ERS may penalize HPD by forcing it to pay the difference the employee would normally receive until the retiree dies. Some officers did not take to Gerona’s management of COVID-19 enforcement practices, police said….

read … Honolulu Police Department seeks city help with inquiry on Major Stephen Gerona

Legislators Finally Spring Trap on Auditor Kondo

SA: …  State Auditor Les Kondo told a House committee investigating his handling of two critical audits that a subpoena forces him to commit an illegal act or face a possible criminal contempt charge.

In a letter dated Tuesday, Kondo told the eight members of a special House Investigative Committee that he needs more time to respond to a committee subpoena issued to him on Sept. 29 and to obtain outside legal counsel because the state Attorney General would be “responsible for prosecuting any criminal contempt charge against me and other employees. The Attorney General and her office cannot serve as prosecutor while simultaneously defending us in any criminal contempt proceeding. The Attorney General and her office are legally conflicted from representing me and other employees.”

Kondo, a lawyer and former head of the state Ethics Commission, wrote that “The subpoena duces tecum presents me with an impossible choice — either comply with the subpoena, thereby committing an illegal and unethical act, or not comply and risk a criminal contempt charge.”

“As the Committee already knows, our audit working papers are confidential by law. 1) The State Ethics Code also prohibits me (and other employees of the office as well as former employees) from disclosing the information contained in those working papers. 2) Notwithstanding those unambiguous statutory provisions, the subpoena duces tecum orders the production of documents by October 13, 2021, which are unrelated to the Committee’s stated — and therefore legal — purpose and include confidential working papers. And, under the Committee’s rules, I am at risk for being charged with criminal contempt for complying with the State Ethics Code and other state law,” Kondo wrote.

“The Committee’s tactic — clearly meant to pressure me and others — is legally and ethically unacceptable, more so in light of the purpose and scope of the investigation stated in House Resolution No. 164. Given the Hobson’s choice we are presented by the Committee — and especially with the possibility of criminal prosecution — we are compelled to retain legal counsel to represent me and other employees, if subpoenaed to testify.”

read … State Auditor Les Kondo faces ‘illegal’ act or prosecution

Rail: TAT Hike to be Deposited in City Transit Fund

SA: … While Bill 40 creates specific allocations for the city’s TAT revenue, it does not specify how much would go to each proposed fund. Part of the TAT revenue would go to the city’s general fund, other portions would be reserved for mitigating the effects of tourism on public facilities and transit matters.

Andrew Kawano, who heads the city’s Department of Budget and Fiscal Serv­ices, pointed out that there are two transit funds, one for the city and one for the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit. It was not clear in the bill which transit fund would receive the revenue, he said. The bill points to the law that establishes the city’s transit fund, ROH 6-61.

“I do believe we’re going to have to have more discussion in committee,” Kawano said. “Perhaps make some technical changes so it’s clearer as to what the intent is.” … 

HNN: Council advances proposal to increase hotel room tax to pay for rail, parks maintenance

read … City Council advances proposal for Oahu visitor tax

Top executives at HART are making the biggest salaries

CB: … This year’s top-paid city employee is the medical examiner, Masahiko Kobayashi, who earns $310,200. …

Coming in at No. 2 is Lori Kahikina, the director of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, who earns $275,000 annually to lead the troubled project. Her predecessor, Andy Robbins, made even more – $317,000 – in the prior year.

This year, Rick Keene, the deputy director at HART, follows his boss as the third highest-paid city worker at $200,000 per year.

Mayor Rick Blangiardi is making $186,000 annually. Accounting for inflation, that’s a nearly 33% increase over the mayor’s salary a decade ago, according to city salary data Civil Beat has obtained over the past 10 years. The mayor made just under $116,000 in the 2012 fiscal year. …

read … Salary Data Show Hundreds Of Honolulu City Employees Earn Well Over The State Average

Tokuda Makes Official Her Bid To Be Hawaii Lt. Governor

CB: … In 2018, Jill Tokuda finished behind Josh Green but ahead of Bernard Carvalho, Jr., Kim Coco Iwamoto and Will Espero in the race for lieutenant governor.

On Wednesday Tokuda officially launched a second bid for the state’s No. 2 gig….

Green is now widely expected to run for governor next year. The primary is Aug. 13….

read … Tokuda Makes Official Her Bid To Be Hawaii Lt. Governor

Tourism leaders urge Ige to declare it’s OK to visit Hawaii

HTH: …  The president and CEO of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association said Hawaii’s visitor industry is “in jeopardy if we don’t get a positive statement soon from the governor that we’re ready to open up again.”…

“We obviously have seen a dip in visitors,” Hannemann said. “If the intention of the announcement that was made on Aug. 23 was to slow travel to Hawaii, it has occurred, and then some. Occupancy rates of 80 to 90% over the summer now is around 50 — and some even reporting 40% overall occupancy rate. We know that the airlines are not bringing in as many people. A high of 225,000 on a weekly basis over the summer is down to 150,000, or even less. “

On Monday, 19,920 trans-Pacific passengers arrived at Hawaii’s airports, 1,889 of them in Kailua-Kona and just 83 in Hilo. That compares to 26,027 trans-Pacific passengers arriving in Hawaii on Monday, Aug. 23 — 2,797 of them in Kona and 137 in Hilo….

SA Editorial: Making progress on vacation rentals

read … Tourism leaders urge Ige to declare it’s OK to visit Hawaii

Mayor: Oahu’s ban on large gatherings will likely be allowed to expire Oct. 19

HNN: … Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said Oahu’s ban on large gatherings will likely be allowed to expire Oct. 19, as long as COVID cases don’t surge again.

The policy prohibits any gatherings larger than 25 people outdoors or 10 indoors.

Gov. David Ige also previously said he planned to make an announcement this week on relaxing the rules. His office said a news conference is tentatively on his schedule for Friday.

Hawaii’s COVID infections and hospitalizations have been on the decline for several weeks….

read … Mayor: Oahu’s ban on large gatherings will likely be allowed to expire Oct. 19

Local researchers say Department of Health officials have refused to collaborate and share COVID-19 data

SA: … researchers were hoping to get data on the number of people who were hospitalized with COVID-19 broken down by vaccination status and age, which could help to better calculate the efficacy of the vaccines on different age groups, said Sumner La Croix, a research fellow at the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization and economics professor at UH Manoa. But he said state health officials have declined to provide it.

“What is really clear to me is that DOH doesn’t really want any independent investigators actually looking at the data,” said La Croix. “They really don’t want anyone second guessing their decisions.” ….

Flashback: VIDEO: Hawaii DoH Official Goes on 10-minute Rant Against Corona Testing

read … Local researchers say Department of Health officials have refused to collaborate and share COVID-19 data

Tiebreaker?  City Council Approves Dave Matlin To Honolulu Fire Commission

CB: … Dave Matlin, director of athletics for the University of Hawaii Manoa, was unanimously approved by the Honolulu City Council on Wednesday. He was appointed by Mayor Rick Blangiardi in June.

But Matlin said he would abstain from voting on the two finalists vying to replace former Honolulu Fire Chief Manuel Neves, who retired in February.

Fire commissioners have been stalemated for months on the hire. Three members favor Lionel Camara, Jr., the acting chief, while three others back Sheldon Kalani Hao, the acting deputy chief….

read … City Council Approves Dave Matlin To Honolulu Fire Commission

“Large landowners, watch out”

TGI: … The Kaua‘i County Council voted unanimously Wednesday to proceed with the acquisition of 23.5 acres of property in Kilauea using the process of eminent domain….

County Attorney Matthew Bracken told councilmembers that the process will proceed to court, where a fair market price for the property will be determined. There, B&D Properties will be able to dispute the necessity and legality of the claim.

Bracken noted that the property is currently zoned for agricultural use and will need to be rezoned through the county and state before housing can be developed on the site — a process he said could take one to two years.

Roversi pointed out that even though the property is zoned for agricultural use, there is no active farming or ranching taking place on the property and he did not believe there had been any since the dissolution of the Kilauea Plantation Company in the 1970s.

Councilmember Billy DeCosta praised the move to acquire the land using eminent domain, saying that the price of the property was effectively exclusionary to Kaua‘i residents. DeCosta said that the price of property on the island effectively locks out locals, leaving only wealthy off-island investors able to buy land on Kaua‘i.

“Large landowners, watch out,” DeCosta said. “Because we are doing what is in the best interest of our community. Locals cannot buy land today. How do we help them? This is one way to help them. Is Kilauea the only piece of property or the only one on the North Shore for residents to look out for? Wrong. We will look from west to north, and we will make sure that we have our community in the best interest.”

Councilmember Felicia Cowden took a softer tone, emphasizing that the county’s use of eminent domain was “not a predatory action.”

Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro echoed her sentiment, pointing out that the county had used “every tool in the toolbox” to move forward with housing projects across the island, including at the Waimea 400 site and Lima Ola Workforce Housing….

read … County to use eminent domain in Kilauea

Deadbeat HCDA to pay delinquent Kakaako housing fees

SA: … HCDA, a (deadbeat) state agency regulating development in Kakaako, owns the 150-unit rental housing component through a partnership but ceased making maintenance fee payments July 1, 2020, because apartment rental income wasn’t covering expenses.

The unpaid amount, which is owed to Honuakaha’s association of property owners that includes condo owners, totaled $654,144 as of this month, and the expense is projected to grow to $981,216 by June.

To correct the delinquency, the agency’s board on Wednesday unanimously voted to approve using up to $1 million from an HCDA special fund to make a 20-year no-interest loan to the HCDA-controlled company that owns the apartments.

The agency also plans to raise monthly apartment rents 5% annually, beginning in January, to help reduce operating losses and repay the loan. This increase for monthly rent amounts to an extra $30 for studios and $35 for one-bedroom units currently rented for $600 and $700, respectively, to existing tenants….

read … Firm to pay delinquent Kakaako housing fees 

Commercial activity under fire in Waimanalo

KITV: … Commercial activity at Waimanalo Beach Parks could soon be banned under a bill being considered by the Honolulu City Council.

read … Commercial activity under fire in Waimanalo

How Hawaii can build a better behavioral health and substance use network of care, according to experts

SoR: … In Hawaii, people experiencing mental health crises or are seeking mental health and substance use disorder services can utilize Hawaii CARES, which offers a free 24/7, statewide call center. Hawaii CARES also works with partners in the criminal justice system and homelessness sector to provide access to behavioral health services for underserved communities.

One of the barriers to behavioral health care, according to Hawaii CARES Clinical Director Dr. Leocadia Conlon, is the amount of time it may take for a person to gain admission into a substance use disorder treatment facility program. To help mitigate this problem, Hawaii CARES refers callers to a bed stabilization program, where people can stay while waiting to enter a facility. Bed stabilization programs are also available to help individuals in mental health crisis avoid hospitalization….

read … How Hawaii can build a better behavioral health and substance use network of care, according to experts

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