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Thursday, November 18, 2021
November 18, 2021 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:39 PM :: 2034 Views

Legislative Agenda: Bills to Ban Gasoline, Diesel Vehicles by 2030

Alaska: The Jones Act's original victim

2021’s Most Obese States--Hawaii 47th

Rail Wheel Replacement will Keep Line Shut Down Until at Least August, 2022, to hide lack of ridership

HNN: … Before the Honolulu City Council Tuesday, HART interim Executive Director Lori Kahikina said bigger wheels are what’s needed. She added that a third-party expert determined the narrow wheels could be replaced instead of reworking the entire track interface.

The company Hitachi will now be designing the new wheels, which are expected to arrive next August. They will then need a full year to install and test them.

(Another 10 months before we find out how few people are going to be riding the rail.)

One unanswered question: Who’s gonna pay for it?

“Is this a cost to the city or the contractor that made the mistake?” Councilman Augie Tulba asked Kahikina.

“Everyone’s asking that, including my own board and as of right now — so I haven’t started negotiations with Hitachi. I just wanted us to work together as a team to get to the solution. And then once we get the solution done, then we’re going to talk commercially on who’s responsible for paying for what,” Kahikina said.

Another problem to be solved is finding welders in Hawaii who are licensed to work with the manganese parts that keep the wheels in place.

The project will likely bring in mainland contractors for now, however someone in Hawaii will need to be certified for long-term repairs….

read … The project to replace the rail line’s wheels will take a year. Price tag? Unknown

Council Approve 3% TAT Hike--Half to pay for Rail ‘In Perpetuity’

SA: … an outside HART consultant, Triunity, (who?) is now forecasting better numbers for rail, Kahikina told the Budget Committee.

(Triunity sells rail projects to cities nationwide based on the same under-projection-of-costs scam which got us into this rail mess in the first place.)

The new numbers were (lies allegedly) based on the assumption that HART would receive a share from a new county transient accommodations tax called Bill 40.

The Budget Committee on Wednesday voted to allot a third of the 3% tax to rail for the first two years and then increase the share to 1.5% in perpetuity (before coming back for more later).

Before the Budget Committee vote, Hanabusa told “Spotlight Hawaii” that the size of the deficit might even be reduced further by potentially $500 million. “It’s all based on assumptions, snapshots in time and what we basically believe the amount of income will be that’s coming in,” she said (without even cracking a grin)….

SA: City Council committee OK’s Oahu hotel tax proposal -- Under the projections, the transit fund for rail would see about $28.6 million over the first two years the TAT is imposed. In subsequent years that number would increase to about $43 million.

read … Honolulu rail deficit estimate cut to $1.97B

Bill 41: Could Wipe out Thousands of Oahu Vacation Rentals

CB: … The Honolulu City Council is considering Bill 41, another measure designed to crack down on unpermitted short-term rentals. If the City Council passes the current measure – and Mayor Rick Blangiardi enforces it — it would remove thousands more units from Oahu’s inventory of visitor accommodations….

How much Bill 41 will affect Oahu’s economy depends on a myriad of variables. But one thing seems almost certain: The immediate effects will be muted. That’s because Oahu’s inventory of short-term rentals already has shrunk, says Carl Bonham, executive director of the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization.

Bonham points to a September 2019 paper in which UHERO reported that the previous Honolulu ordinance, known as Bill 89, already had an enormous impact. Based on data from AirBnB, UHERO estimated Oahu had about 10,000 rentals, 6,000 of which were operating illegally.

“Since the ordinance went into effect, about 3,500 units have withdrawn their listings,” UHERO reported. “This represents a greater-than-8% drop in Oahu’s overall visitor plant inventory, which averaged a little more than 40,000 units in the first half of this year.”

Some of those 3,500 units eventually came back on the market, Bonham said. But then Covid-19 emerged, Gov. David Ige imposed mandatory quarantines for travelers and tourism came to a standstill. When Hawaii’s Safe Travels program reopened the state to tourists in October 2020, short-term rentals proved a popular option.

By July, during the peak of tourism, Hawaii hosted some 880,000 visitors, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority. Many of them chose to stay in vacation rentals.  Occupancy at vacation rentals was 81.8% for the month, according to HTA, which was slightly lower than hotel occupancy. The average rental raked in $251 per night.

While these numbers show how popular vacation rentals are, they obscure one thing: Oahu’s rentals are still far below the 10,000 the island once had.

Bonham points to HTA’s latest report on vacation rentals, showing there were about 163,000 “unit days” available in September, to estimate Oahu’s inventory was about 5,200 units per day. Bill 41 would likely shut down the vast majority of those….

read … Vacation Rental Bill Could Starve Windward Businesses That Cater To Tourists

Reasons behind Honolulu's building permit backlog

KITV: … The Department of Planning and Permitting has been hit with high turnover and has an overall vacancy rate of 25%.

That rate is even higher for some positions like permit reviewers.

"In some areas, like the permit branch, it might spike up to 50% some weeks," said DPP Director Dean Uchida.

Which means the backlog of applications keeps piling up.

"Because of the shortage of manpower, it is probably another 3 months so we are looking at 9 months. That's what we telling all new families: be prepared to wait 9 months for the permit," added Kim.

A couple of months ago, DPP started paying overtime and had some workers come in on the weekends to process more applications, but was still unable to cut down on the backlog.

Adding to the slowdown, third parties are allowed to check permits for code compliance with mechanical, electrical, building and plumbing codes -- so the department wouldn't have to check. But a review instead found 50% of those third-party reviews were NOT in code compliance.

(Translation: We need new ways to obtaining our bribes.)

"We just started an audit to weed out the bad performers. We are trying to randomly check to identify who the good players are and who the ones are who need more work," said Uchida.

That is just one of the reasons, Kim and others in the building industry want to put code compliance at the end of the permit process, done by industry professionals, not with office clerks at the start.

"Our long-term goal is to change the process. Where we get rid of trying to find out if it is to code on the plans and work on when the field inspectors come out to make sure it is up to code," said Kim.

But those field inspectors aren't expected to look for code violations, just compliance with already approved plans….

Reality: Free Golf, Methamphetamines, and Building Permits

read … Reasons behind Honolulu's building permit backlog

Grand jury indicts adoptive parents for ‘heinous’ murder of 6-year-old Isabella ‘Ariel’ Kalua

HNN: … A grand jury indicted the adoptive parents Wednesday of 6-year-old Isabella “Ariel” Kalua on murder, hindering prosecution and other charges.

Lehua and Isaac “Sonny” Kalua remain behind bars without bail.

In a news conference outlining the new charges, city Prosecutor Steve Alm called the allegations against the couple “heinous.” He added that if convicted, they both face extended terms of life without the possibility of parole because of extended sentencing guidelines.

“This is heinous crime. They need to be held accountable for it,” Alm said. “It’s really sickening.”

In addition to murder, 44-year-old Lehua Kalua was charged with:

  • One count of hindering prosecution
  • Two counts of abuse of a household member
  • Two counts of persistent nonsupport
  • Two counts of endangering the welfare of a minor

Isaac Kalua, 52, also faces murder, hindering prosecution, and endangerment charges….

SA: Oahu grand jury indicts adoptive parents of Isabella Kalua on murder charges 

CB: Grand Jury Indicts Waimanalo Girl’s Adoptive Parents On Murder Charges

read … Grand jury indicts adoptive parents for ‘heinous’ murder of 6-year-old Isabella ‘Ariel’ Kalua

Honolulu Fire Commission Restarts Search For Department Chief

CB: … The City and County of Honolulu will enter the new year without a permanent fire chief.

The Honolulu Fire Commission on Wednesday again deadlocked 3-3 on whether to select Lionel Camara, Jr., the acting chief, or Sheldon Kalani Hao, the acting deputy chief.

But commissioners also voted unanimously to redo the search….

Former Honolulu Fire Department Chief Manuel Neves retired in February. Since then, Nekota, vice chair William Hong and commissioner Dennis Morton have favored Camara while commissioners Max Hannemann, Craig Nagamine and Nicholas W. Teves Jr. have supported Hao….

Wednesday’s meeting was the first for new commissioner David Matlin, the University of Hawaii director of athletics. While the City Council approved his appointment by Mayor Rick Blangiardi last month, Matlin agreed to abstain from voting on the fire chief until he had a chance to participate fully in the hiring process.

The Honolulu Fire Commission is scheduled to reconvene its work Jan. 19.

HNN: Hawaii’s Fire Fighters Association announced it’s endorsing Hao

Background: Say 'Uncle' -- What Connects Miske to Kealoha?

read … Honolulu Fire Commission Restarts Search For Department Chief

New Maui chief picks deputy from Las Vegas

MN: …Last month the commission waived a one-year residency requirement for Pelletier, who resides in Las Vegas.

Some in the department questioned the residency requirement that also pertains to Hank, who also has a Las Vegas address.

At Wednesday’s Maui Police Commission meeting, members did not approve moving expenses for Hank, as suggested for discussion by commissioner Mark Redeker….

read … New chief picks deputy from Las Vegas

HPD Says It Will Take A Fresh Look At Its Vehicle Pursuit Policy

CB: … On Wednesday, HPD Interim Chief Rade Vanic told the Honolulu Police Commission that the department’s current pursuit policy aligns with the International Association of Chiefs of Police model pursuit policy.

But he said that he will be reviewing the policy – a decision that comes after Civil Beat’s October investigation found that approximately 32% of chases involved collisions and the majority of HPD pursuits were in response to property crimes or traffic offenses….

(CLUE: 100% of chases are in response to somebody running from police.)

SA: Honolulu Police Department reviewing vehicle pursuit policy

read … HPD Says It Will Take A Fresh Look At Its Vehicle Pursuit Policy

No opioid epidemic talk at Honolulu ex-prosecutor’s brother’s trial

SA: … There will be no mention of the “opioid epidemic” at a trial against the pain physician brother of a former Hawaii prosecutor imprisoned in a corruption case that also took down her former police chief husband.

Dr. Rudolph Puana is scheduled to go to trial in March for drug-dealing allegations.

According to federal prosecutors, Puana prescribed oxycodone to his friends so that they could sell the pills for cash and that some of it funded cocaine parties with the doctor….

A U.S. judge today granted Puana’s request for no mention or evidence at trial about the “public controversy surrounding opioid use” — including references to terms such as “opioid epidemic” or “opioid crisis.”

Puana’s sister, Katherine Kealoha, pleaded guilty to using her position as a deputy prosecutor to protect him from a drug-dealing investigation….

read … No opioid epidemic talk at Honolulu ex-prosecutor’s brother’s trial

Pentagon again struggles to produce ‘clean’ audit of sprawling operations

WT: … The results of the full Defense Department audit were mixed. About 47% of its entities are expected to be under a favorable opinion, such as the Military Retirement Fund, which represents more than 30% of the Pentagon’s total assets, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - Civil Works, and the Medicare-eligible Retiree Health Care Fund.

The audit uncovered some financial weaknesses within the Department of Defense, including in compiling financial statements and gauging contingent legal liabilities….

read … Pentagon again struggles to produce ‘clean’ audit of sprawling operations

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