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Friday, January 21, 2022
January 21, 2022 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:05 PM :: 3536 Views

UH Regents approve new Maunakea Master Plan

Rep Kai Kahele Doubles Down on COVID Lockdowns

Star-Adv: Down with Freedom--Hawaii is only for the Elite

SA Editorial: … Talk of tourism management often dissolves into a litany of “can’t.”

We can’t close the state to visitors when the islands get too crowded.

We can’t keep airlines from selling more seats or hotels from filling their rooms.

We can’t impose a fee on tourists just to enter Hawaii, due to constitutional law.

This free country/free enterprise thing is complicated.

Still, rising above all is a simple truth: Hawaii’s natural resources can’t take the strain of 10 million visitors annually, unabated. That number was reached before the pandemic and we appear headed to hit it again in just a few years. If we can’t stop the wave, we have to figure out how to protect the very natural beauty that makes people want to come to Hawaii in the first place.

(CLUE: If you think this is just about tourists, you are about to contribute to the effort by moving to Las Vegas.)

Pandemic travel restrictions bought us some time. Not only did it show us how a resource such as Hanauma Bay can rebound when humans leave it alone, it allowed for building an online reservation system that controls access and charges nonresidents a $25 per person entrance fee.

More of that, please.

No one would say Hawaii is an inexpensive place for a vacation (OR TO LIVE, HINT, HINT, HINT), but in some ways we have sold ourselves too cheap….

We don’t want visitors (and residents) to face fees every time they turn around. We can’t let our state become so expensive that only the very rich can afford to share in its wonder. … There is nothing (wrong with being) elitist about presenting ourselves as a place where we care about our land….

(Know them by what they deny.)

read … Editorial: Take better care of isles’ beauty

Federal prosecutors not finished--interview Hanabusa

HNN: … A week after three ex-city executives were arrested by the FBI for conspiracy, agents and the special prosecutor investigating public corruption in Honolulu were back before a federal grand jury.

Among the long list of witnesses, which means they are not targets of the investigation:

Former U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who testified in the morning and again after lunch

And Ann Kobayashi, who served on the City Council.

Kobayashi said she was asked about campaign donations from engineering and architectural firm Mitsunaga and Associates, Inc., a company with strong political ties….

The line of questioning shows Dennis Mitsunaga and the firm’s connections are part of the case that the FBI and special federal prosecution team, led by Michael Wheat, are focusing on…..

“What we’ve seen before is Mr. Wheat and his team are focusing on one issue, but then when they do that they find a second issue and then sometimes they find a third issue,” said Alexander Silvert, a retired federal public defender who worked with Wheat on the Kealoha case.

Wheat’s team is also zeroing in on Keith Kaneshiro, the ex-city prosecutor for Honolulu who is suspected of improperly prosecuting a former Mitsunaga and Associates employee who sued the firm….


read … Federal prosecutors who led corruption probe into Kealohas make it clear they’re not finished

The Squatter House That Miske Bought

ILind: … There’s a curious back story regarding the residence on Kumukahi Place in Hawaii Kai that alleged crime boss Michael J. Miske, Jr., purchased at a foreclosure auction two years ago, and is now in the process of selling.

On June 6, 2013, James Harold Hall and his family moved into the home, which had been vacant since the death of its owner the previous year, and was in the process of being foreclosed on by the lender. The Hall family became squatters, battling in court to avoid or delay eviction as long as possible. They were finally removed from the property by court order in early 2018….

After Hall’s cases were dismissed in court, both decisions were appealed to the Intermediate Court of Appeals. This time around, Hall didn’t argue the case pro se, without the benefit of an attorney. Instead, he was represented in both appeals by Honolulu attorney Gary Victor Dubin and Fred Arensmeyer of the Dubin Law Office….

The Thornton home was sold at a commissioner’s auction on March 18, 2018. The winning bid of $1.4 million was submitted by Kaulana Freitas. After the bid was confirmed, Freitas disclosed he was representing Michael J. Miske, Jr., who then took Freitas’ place in the sale. The sale was final, and a commissioner’s deed issued, on December 31, 2019.

In July 2020, Miske, Freitas, and nine other co-defendants were indicted on federal charges of being members or associates of a racketeering organization controlled and directed by Miske.

Attorney Gary Dubin was disbarred by order of the Hawaii Supreme Court effective November 9, 2020, after the court found he had engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation in several cases. His representation of Hall was not among the cases considered by the court….

ILind: The rest of the story (coming soon)

RELATED: Bank says site of last week’s fatal police shooting was owned by disbarred attorney Gary Dubin

RELATED: Hawaii’s Largest Carbon Credit Scheme to be Evicted from its own HQ?

read … The squatters next door

City lawyers’ ouster from Iremamber Sykap case sought

SA: … Attorneys representing the family of a 16-year-old boy who was shot and killed by Honolulu police following an alleged crime spree and car chase are seeking to disqualify the city Department of the Corporation Counsel from defending both the officers and the city against civil accusations of negligence and wrongful death.

Based on a recent federal magistrate ruling in a separate wrongful death case, Eric Seitz and Kevin A. Yolken, who are representing Iremamber Sykap’s grandmother Akiwine Sykap and mother, Yovita Lucio, maintain that the corporation counsel cannot represent three HPD officers and the city in the Sykap case…. 

UPDATE--HNN: Judge rules city lawyers can represent officers involved in fatal shooting of teen

read … City lawyers’ ouster from Iremamber Sykap case sought

Storing jet fuel a complicated task

SA: … It’s a fair criticism: To say the Navy’s fuel tanks under Red Hill must be forever emptied is one thing; to come up with an alternative is another. This point is driven home with news that Par Hawaii Refining has been fined $176,899 for violations of the Clean Air Act. The Kapolei facility has been identified by state officials as one place that could store a good share of the Navy’s millions of gallons of jet fuel.

The violations were not connected to fuel storage, but they underscore the fear that every alternative carries some new set of risks.

read … Storing jet fuel a complicated task

Hawaii public-school student absences up dramatically in latest COVID-19 surge, report says

SA: >> The Waianae complex had the highest absentee rate on Oahu for the first week of school with 28.6%. That was up from its first-semester average of 17.6%. Before the pandemic, the average was 9.9%.

>> The McKinley complex in urban Honolulu was near the middle of the pack with a student absentee rate of 21.8% in the first week of school, Jan. 4 to 7, as the surge was on the upswing. That was significantly higher than its fall-semester average of 12.3%. In the semester before the start of the pandemic, McKinley’s absentee average was 8%.

>> The Kalani complex had the lowest absentee rate in the state for the first week of school at 11.5%, but that was still more than double its 5.1% average from the first semester. Before the pandemic, the average was 4.4%.

>> The complexes with the highest rates statewide for the first week of school were Lanai at 33.9%, Kau at 33.4%, and Molokai at 29.1%.

The report says 3,369 cases of COVID-19 among students, teachers and staff were reported statewide between Dec. 10 and Jan. 9….

SA: Hawaii public-school student absences up dramatically in latest COVID-19 surge, report says

HNN: DOE: Nearly 3,400 COVID cases reported among students, staff amid Omicron surge

CB: Student Absences Soared Above 30% In Some Hawaii Schools

read … Hawaii public-school student absences up dramatically in latest COVID-19 surge, report says

Retention rate of Hawaii public school teachers after 5 years of employment just over 50%

SA: … The retention rate of Hawaii public school teachers after five years of employment stubbornly stood at just over 50% last year despite multiple state efforts, including an incentive program for teachers in hard-to-retain categories that has cost $34 million so far.

In the 2020-21 school year, just 51% of teachers were still employed after five years of work, according to the new report from the state Department of Education.

That’s down a notch from the 52% baseline from the 2016-17 school year, set by the DOE’s 2017-2020 Strategic Plan.

The goal had been to reach 60% by 2020.

It was 54% in the 2017-18 school year, and 51% and 55% in the subsequent years….

read … Retention rate of Hawaii public school teachers after 5 years of employment just over 50%

Advisory panel formed to help find next DOE superintendent

HNN: … As the search continues for the permanent head of Hawaii’s public schools, an advisory group is now in place to help with the selection process.

The panel includes public school teachers, a parent and other community and education leaders, including UH President David Lassner.

The Board is planning to name the next superintendent sometime in May….

Keith Hayashi is currently the interim superintendent. He took over when Christina Kishimoto stepped down at the end of July….

read … Advisory panel formed to help find next DOE superintendent

Plan to ban rentals under 90 days moves through City Council despite some opposition

HNN: … An effort to ban vacation rentals from residential areas continues to move through the City Council despite opposition from rental owners.

The proposal would only allow short-term vacation accommodations in or next to resort-zoned areas like Waikiki or Turtle Bay.

Councilmembers heard almost three hours of testimony on Thursday from both owners who say the plan illegally takes away property rights and residents who say the vacation rentals are taking their rights….

Back in 2020, Expedia Group entered an agreement with the city to help identify illegal rentals. In a statement Thursday, a spokesperson urged the county to implement existing laws instead of debating radical changes.

“Responsible vacation rentals play a critical role and are an essential option for travelers and non-tourist visitors alike,” Expedia Group said.

The measure would also require residential rentals to be available for at least 90 days for new renters….

CB: Compromise would also allow bookings for a minimum of 90 days, up from the current 30 but half the time of Blangiardi’s proposed 180 days. 

read … Plan to regulate vacation rentals moves through City Council despite some opposition

Mayor Taps Former Fire Chief To Join Honolulu Police Commission

CB: … Kenneth Silva’s nomination needs to be approved by the Honolulu City Council ….

read … Mayor Taps Former Fire Chief To Join Honolulu Police Commission

Laughing at the Judiciary: Criminal Racks up 161 Convictions in 18 Yrs

HNN: … A 36-year-old man accused of a series of thefts in Waikiki pleaded not guilty in court on Thursday.

Officials said Lawrence Smalls is a serial offender and has been charged with two counts of felony habitual property crime relating incidents at the Cheesecake Factory.

Prosecutors said Smalls allegedly stole alcohol from the restaurant on two separate occasions in October 2021.

He has 161 prior convictions, and officials said these alleged offenses are the latest in a long string of crimes he committed, which include other thefts, harassment and criminal trespassing.

Smalls is currently being held at Oahu Community Correctional Center on $20,000 bail.

Prosecuting Attorney Steve Alm said the department is working with Honolulu police and local retailers to crack down on habitual theft. They are working to identify and charge those who repeatedly steal from businesses.

Officials said that while individual instances of theft may only qualify for misdemeanor criminal charges, those who repeatedly steal are eligible for felony charges under Hawaii’s Habitual Property Crime statute….

read … Man with 161 prior convictions pleads not guilty to string of thefts in Waikiki

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