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Friday, October 15, 2021
October 15, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:14 PM :: 5475 Views

Hawaii Republican Chair Resigns

Hawaii COVID Response: Safety vs Freedom

UHERO: Hawaii Needs to Focus on Developing Good Governance in Managing Tourism

Naming Names: New Hawaii Election Districts Endanger Eight Incumbents

CB: … At least eight incumbent lawmakers on Oahu and the Big Island could find themselves in election contests with their colleagues next year because new political boundary proposals have moved the neighborhoods in which they live out of the districts they represent.

The Hawaii Reapportionment Commission is responsible for redrawing political lines every decade and presented the new maps for the first time on Thursday.

The maps are preliminary, and the commission will continue taking public input over the next two weeks to come up with an initial round of draft plans to take to public hearings….

Most changes are expected to take place in the House….

East Oahu would lose a seat while West Oahu would gain one.

House District 19 which covers parts of Kapahulu, Diamond Head and Kahala, would be eliminated and divided among surrounding districts under the draft plans. Rep. Bert Kobayashi, who represents that district, did not return a phone message Thursday.

On the west side, (two DUI Reps, LOL!) Reps. Sharon Har and Matt LoPresti would end up in a new House District that would be created that represents Kalaeloa and parts of Ewa and Kapolei….  (LOL!  B-bye LoPresti AGAIN)

Part of Rep. Daniel Holt’s district was combined into a district made up of neighborhoods that are mostly represented by Rep. Takashi Ohno. Holt, who has been excluded from leadership roles for years under House Speaker Scott Saiki, said that is “a problem.” (LOL!  B-bye to Broken Trust Holt family!)

Rep. Adrian Tam may also be cut out of his House district which would be redrawn to only include Waikiki and parts of McCully bordering the Ala Wai Canal.

Saiki has reportedly been exerting influence over the reapportionment process….  (Hint: Tam supported Kim Coco Iwamoto vs Saiki.)

Unlike members of the House, most senators should make it out unscathed.

However on the Big Island, Sen. Lorraine Inouye and Sen. Laura Acasio may find themselves competing for the same district that represents urban Hilo. (LOL!  B-bye to little Miss Impeachment!)

Ellen Watson, a Manoa Neighborhood Board member, also voiced concerns over how the new maps would split up the Manoa valley. The proposed maps would split Manoa along University Avenue.  (LOL!  B-bye to Anti-Vaxxer Kobayashi!)

HTH: New maps could pit incumbents against each other: Shifting legislative district lines draw scrutiny 

SA Editorial: Redrawn maps shape democracy

read … New Hawaii Election Districts Are Drawing Fire

Surveillance video backs witness claims that officers fled after devastating Makaha crash

HNN: … The Sept. 12 video from the Makaha Surfside condos shows an unmarked, black police SUV pursuing the Honda. They are seen blazing over a speed bump around 3:45 a.m. The vehicles were followed several seconds later by two blue and white Honolulu police cars — all with their blue lights off.

Video from a security camera across the street provided another angle of all four vehicles, apparently speeding north on Farrington Highway….

About three minutes after the crash, the video shows the three police cars driving back down Farrington Highway in the opposite direction of the crash.

Witnesses said the officers later returned to the scene and asked what happened…. 

HNN: Attorney: Video linked to Makaha crash shows police engaged in ‘criminal behavior’

read … Surveillance video backs witness claims that officers fled after devastating Makaha crash

HART:  TAT Hike Will Not fix $3.5 billion shortfall

SA:  … Officials with the city’s troubled rail project are waiting for the City Council to decide whether to impose a new city hotel tax that could benefit the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, but do not expect it to plug their $3.5 billion deficit — and have no alternative hopes of outside funding.

HART board member Natalie Iwasa, a certified public accountant and certified fraud examiner, questioned Thursday how reliant HART officials are on getting funds from a proposed Honolulu transient accommodations tax of up to 3% that’s now being weighed by the City Council.

“Taxpayers were told that there would be no — quote unquote — mortgage with respect to rail construction,” Iwasa said. “I don’t think it can realistically come from TAT at the county level, unless we’re talking about going out 40 years or so.”

Rick Keene, HART’s deputy executive director and chief operating officer, responded:

“You’re absolutely right. We agree. We have never made any contention that we think we can fill that gap. No. 1, we can’t fill it from additional funding from anywhere. We’re not going to get $3.5 billion in additional funding, and, the least of which, we’re not going to get it from TAT. We all knew that and that’s not the objective. We have been working really hard over the last six months to do things to try to reduce that funding gap.”

Bill 40 would levy a 3% city transient accommodations tax on visitor lodgings, in addition to the state’s current 10.25% visitor tax. Last week the measure passed first reading by the City Council and was assigned to the Council’s Budget Committee.

Keene said the HART administration and HART board Chairwoman Colleen Hanabusa hope that the current $3.5 billion estimated funding deficit will be smaller than currently projected.

“That funding gap came about in March … and we said we were very conser- v­ative,” Keene said. “We wanted to be transparent and talk to the public about what we thought was hopefully a worst-case scenario.”

HART officials are waiting for a draft report of their financial situation by an outside consultant due Nov. 1 that will be used as part of a new financial plan to eventually go to the Federal Transit Administration. FTA officials have told HART not to submit an updated financial plan until the City Council decides what to do with Bill 40, Keene said.…

read … Honolulu rail officials not counting on city tourism tax to fix $3.5 billion shortfall

HART Approves $23M Legal Fees For Looming Trial Against Howard Hughes

CB: … Rail’s local oversight board on Thursday gave unanimous approval to a $7 million increase in costs to outside legal firms as the city prepares for an eminent domain lawsuit against one of the island’s most prominent developers.

That developer, Dallas-based Howard Hughes Corp., and its local subsidiary Victoria Ward, Ltd., could seek more than $200 million in damages for the nearly 2 acres of easements needed to build the rail line through their Ward Village properties in Kakaako, according to a new Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation slide presentation.

Rick Keene, HART’s chief operating officer, said Thursday that a series of motions currently being argued in court aim to eliminate at least some of the claims that Howard Hughes is seeking by the time the matter goes to trial in May. That effort could reduce the $200 million estimate, he added….

HNN: Rail board to spend up to $23M in legal fees in dispute with Kakaako land developer

read … HART Approves More Legal Fees For Looming Trial Against Howard Hughes

Legislative Agenda: Rental car cap, hotel room freeze may Cause Recession

MN: … “Even before COVID-19, public support for tourism, at least a brand of tourism that has been practiced as of late, was plummeting,” he said last week at the Hawaii Economic Association’s annual conference. “Everybody was just getting sick of it — of overtourism.”….

The Oahu congressman, who serves on the House Committee on Appropriations that regulates federal discretionary spending, was the keynote speaker for the 2021 conference — titled “COVID-19: What Have We Learned? Where Do We Go From Here?” — held via Zoom on Thursday and Friday.

Case offered “tough” approaches for mitigating overtourism, including no expansion of rooms for existing hotels and resorts, along with caps on available rental vehicles.

“Can we set a maximum ceiling on availability of rental cars in our state?” he asked.

Maui County Council members via state and county measures have been working on both of these items. But whether there’s enough political will to change the course of overcrowding from tourism remains to be seen.

Council Member Tamara Paltin, who holds the West Maui residency seat, has been working on proposals for the county’s state legislative package that would authorize each council to regulate the number of rental cars in respective jurisdictions.

The Hawaii State Association of Counties legislative package has eight state bills, including House Bill 165 and Senate Bill 438 proposed by Paltin to empower the county councils to regulate the number of rental cars in each county….

Meanwhile, after months of strong Maui resident support during council committee and regular meetings, a proposal to place a temporary halt on building permits for hotels, resorts and other vacation rentals is continuing to move through local legislative bodies.

A Planning Department version of the bill, proposed by Council Vice Chairwoman Keani Rawlins-Fernandez, was recently approved by the Maui Planning Commission. It will now be heard by council committee…..

read … Case: Rental car cap, hotel room freeze may mitigate overtourism

Building hospital capacity; Hawaii authorities change their Covid conversation

PBN: … Grassroot Institute of Hawaii invited me to be on its podcast this week — you can find that at the think tank’s channel, here. GIH President Keli‘i Akina was interested in my thoughts on government transparency during Covid and how Hawaii can increase its health care capacity to be more resilient.

On that last point, GIH and others are way ahead of me. In March, the organization asked the state Legislature to address the state’s rationing of health care through Certificates of Need. Wrote GIH:

“According to a 2020 study from the Mercatus Center, Hawaii has the highest number of certificate-of-need restrictions in the country. The result of those restrictions is to make health care more expensive, limit access to care and lower the overall quality of care. By comparing costs and outcomes in states with restrictive certificate-of-need laws and those without, the Mercatus Center determined that CON laws increase annual per capita health care spending in Hawaii by $219 and reduce the number of health care facilities in the state by about 14.”…

Related: What we ‘need’ is to fix Hawaii’s healthcare laws

read … Building hospital capacity; Hawaii authorities change their Covid conversation

Pediatric COVID-19 cases rise in Hawaii amid Delta surge

KITV: … Before August 1st, pediatric cases made up 14 percent of all cases statewide. After August 1st, that number rose to 23 percent.

It's something that Dr. Jessica Kosut from Kapiolani Medical Center has witnessed firsthand. "We went from seeing a couple cases a week to seeing children every single day in the hospital with COVID," she says.

Kosut says while overall, children have stronger immune systems than the elderly and can more easily fight off infections, there is a concern about long term impacts - some pediatric cases have had heart and kidney impacts not seen in adults….

read … Pediatric COVID-19 cases rise in Hawaii amid Delta surge

Special Ed Students Have Been ‘Left Out’ From Distance Learning in Hawaii

CB: … With Covid-19 cases spiking in Hawaii in early August, Ka‘iulani Akamine decided the risk was too high to send her medically fragile daughter, then entering the second grade at Kahaluu Elementary, back to campus.

The 8-year-old girl has a history of seizures and her own doctor suggested she not head back to school until she can receive the vaccine.

Akamine faced few alternatives since the state Department of Education was pushing to get as many kids as possible back to class this school year after a prolonged period of mostly remote learning….

read … Special Ed Students Have Been ‘Left Out’ From Distance Learning in Hawaii

Solar Farm Just Another ‘Deleterious Project’

IM: … “While the West O'ahu/Kalaeloa Community Clean Energy 'Ohana (WOCEO) in general supports projects which move us from fossil fuel to renewable "clean" energy we are concerned about the current trend and possible continuation of negative impacts on an already over-burdened community with multiple energy generating systems and negative industrial industries. We host a military training ground, military radio transmitting facility, military munitions storage facility, the only landfills located on O'ahu and other deleterious projects.” ….

read … Intrusive Renewable Energy -- Public Utilities Commission Meets With Waianae/West O`ahu Community Members

Hawaii inmates to receive $50 if they get COVID-19 vaccine

SA: … The state Department of Public Safety, or PSD, announced Thursday that it will pay $50 to certain inmates who get fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The effort is among several across the country that aim to help increase inoculation rates in prisons and jails, which are dangerous breeding grounds for communicable diseases.

(Better Idea: Give them a needle not a choice.  100% get J&J one-and-done.)

Hawaii inmates incarcerated on or after March 3 who are still in custody are eligible. Some 2,530 inmates in Hawaii and at the Saguaro Correctional Center in Arizona qualify. The money will be deposited into the inmate’s spendable trust account.

The department received $615,000 in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to pay for the program. This incentive payment, which is not available to state employees, is scheduled to continue through Dec. 31, 2024….

On Oct. 12 the state Supreme Court denied a third request by the Office of the Public Defender to release certain classes of prisoners early to help alleviate overcrowding and slow the spread of the virus.

Of about 650 inmates released in 2020, 50 were arrested again (IN THE FIRST MONTH). That 8% (ONE MONTH) recidivism rate was significantly below the roughly 50% average (LIFETIME) rate for inmates released on probation prior to the pandemic….

read … Hawaii inmates to receive $50 if they get COVID-19 vaccine

New Legal Clinic Aims To Give Criminals A 22nd Chance

CB: … Beyond Guilt is set to open in 2022 with the goal of helping former and currently incarcerated people with clemency, compassionate release, parole, and clearing criminal records….

The program was modeled after the Ohio Justice and Policy Center’s Beyond Guilt clinic and is being spearheaded by Hawaii Innocence Project Co-Director (and not-a-pimp recruiter)  Kenneth Lawson and Associate Director Jennifer Brown….

“This clinic can help us realize our goals of decarceration and moving our criminal legal system from a punitive to a rehabilitative model,” ACLU of Hawaii Field Director Monica Espitia said in a statement. “In 2020 alone, Hawai‘i incarcerated almost 600 people for drug use, 1,100 people were re-incarcerated for parole or probation violations, and incarcerated over 400 kūpuna (who just never learn) over the age of 55.” ….

(And we are going to give them their 22nd chance at age 56.)

read … Try not to get caught this time, OK? 

Police officers learn new skills to deal with homeless mental illness

KITV: … Maj. Mike Lambert, head of the HPD Training Academy, said roughly 200 recruits and 150 officers have learned skills to calm people having breakdowns to avoid having to use force. They're trained to recognize symptoms of mental illness and deescalate tense situations.

"So for example the concerning individual on the sidewalk today they're yelling tomorrow maybe they're breaking a window, and if they're not addressed they may harm someone.," Lambert said. The goal ... is to catch someone on day one, when they're very concerning and hopefully derail the poor behavior that is likely to occur down the road."

To that end, HPD is planning to train dozens of officers beginning in January. The Police Academy won a $166,000 grant for the special training….

Kumi Macdonald, head of the National Alliance for Mental Illness Hawaii, is helping with the educational efforts.

"There's a lot of people in our community that have mental health crises, but according to the law there's not much that can be done," she said. "Now we're all coming together for a common cause. This is going to hopefully help bridge these gaps we have in our islands." 

Health experts warn mental illness and substance abuse have significantly worsened during the pandemic.  That's why Lambert believes now's the time to act.

"It's definitely gotten worse by far I think for a long time HPD tried to take the national standard which is behavioral health is not a police issue, but now it's on our doorstep and I don't think that we can ignore it anymore," he said. "If we aren't able to address the behavioral health crisis, we'll never address homelessness."

Related: A Model for Hawaii: Federal Judge Orders Los Angeles to Clear Skid Row

(IDEA: Build 10,000 sros and enforce a vagrancy law.)

read … Police officers learn new skills to deal with mental illness

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