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Saturday, March 19, 2022
March 19, 2022 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:08 PM :: 2663 Views

ALOHA homes proposal 'fundamentally flawed'

Your house probably made more than you did last year

DoH Declares Navy Water Safe in All Residential Areas

Chief Justice Appoints Two New Oahu Judges

HB124: Committee amends bill for Hawaii election guide

Hawaii Supreme Court Denies Redistricting Challenge--103 Candidates Pull Papers

New Federal Charges Filed--Ratting out Caldwell Leong’s Only Hope?

SA: … The U.S. Department of Justice is accusing former city corporation counsel Donna Leong of lying to FBI agents on five occasions about her work to structure a $250,000 settlement for former HPD Chief Louis Kealoha.

In a superseding indictment filed March 17, assistant U.S. Attorney Colin M. McDonald wrote that on Nov. 17, 2017, Leong made “materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements and representations” to FBI agents investigating Kealoha’s payout. Leong, the city’s corporation counsel from 2013 to 2019, allegedly told FBI agents that the acting HPD Chief at the time had nothing to do with the payout, never talked to her about it and did not complain until after it was completed, which the federal government claims is not true.

(Clue for Caldwell: Brazil.  No extradition treaty.)

(Clue for Leong: Caldwell isn’t gonna be the next Governor.)

Leong allegedly made a false statement to FBI agents when she said that deputy corporation counsel Duane Pang would not have been able to talk to anyone outside the Honolulu Police Commission about the settlement because she controlled the process “very tightly.”

It is not clear why the justice department elected to file the new allegations three months after the initial Dec. 16 indictment of Leong, Amemiya and Sword.

(Simple: These new charges prevent Leong from escaping justice by placing all the blame on Nelson Koyanagi, who is dying of cancer.)

A hearing about the status of the ailing former director of the city department of Budget and Fiscal Services, Nelson Koyanagi, who was ordered to be deposed in the case, is scheduled for today at 4 p.m.

Their trial is scheduled for June 13 at 9 a.m.

(Translation: Because her lawyer’s dead man gambit is no longer going to allow her to beat the rap, Leong is now under serious pressure to rat out Caldwell.)

read … Former top city attorney accused of lying to FBI in Kealoha payout probe

HB2414 Amended to Eliminate GE Tax on Diapers, Food And Medicine

CB: … In a proposal that would significantly reduce costs of necessities for Hawaii households, a state senator is pushing to exempt diapers, food and medicine from Hawaii’s general excise tax.

The proposal by Sen. Glenn Wakai would reduce the cost of groceries at the cash register by 4% statewide and 4.5% on Oahu.

Wakai, who is chair of the Senate Energy, Economic Development and Tourism Committee, added the provision to a bill that came before the committee on Friday. The committee voted unanimously in favor of the exemption. The original House bill called for a general excise tax exemption only on diapers.

“If we’re really going to have an impact on people who are struggling,” he said in an interview, “let’s look at food and medicine.”

Wakai noted the committee had received testimony calling for the broader tax exemption from a range of organizations, including the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii, the Hawaii Restaurant Association, Hawaii Food Industry Association, the retail Merchants of Hawaii and the Hawaii Children’s Action Network. The organizations that appeared at the hearing stood on their written testimony….

HNN: State Senate committee advances bill to eliminate tax on family necessities

HB2414: Text, Status

read … Proposed Bill Would Reduce Prices Of Diapers, Food And Medicine

HGEA’s Pet Speaker: Saiki Triple-Refers $94M HSTA Pay Hike

CB: … Senate Bill 2819, backed by the Hawaii State Teachers Association, proposes a one-time $94 million appropriation to adjust salaries for roughly 8,700 Hawaii teachers whose salaries do not reflect how long they’ve served in the profession. The funds, to be doled out in the fiscal year starting July 1, would boost pay for eligible educators next year in amounts ranging from $7,700 to $26,000 to account for their years of service.

But some other labor unions are raising concerns about implications for pay equity across all jobs in the public school system and say a legislative move to increase pay would sidestep the collective bargaining process.

“All DOE employees play a critical role in educational excellence and similarly, all government employees equally serve our community,” Hawaii Government Employees Association executive director Randy Perreira said in written testimony. “This divisive mentality of elevating some (job) classifications over others is destructive and hampers morale.”

Ryker Wada, the chief negotiator for the governor’s Office of Collective Bargaining, said the measure is “premature,” arguing in written testimony it diminishes agencies’ ability “to collectively bargain on the compensation of not only teachers, but all public sector employees.”

Among the key education legislative priorities this session, SB 2819 crossed over to the House on March 8, after clearing the Senate Education and Ways and Means committees with no votes in opposition at either stop. (Translation: Why vote against HSTA when you know the HGEA will stop this bill in the House.)The bill was originally slated to be heard on the House side by the Education and Finance committees but at crossover it was additionally referred to the Labor and Tourism committee (by Saiki at HGEA direction).

While it’s not usual for a bill to have to pass three committees in the House, it does make its chance of passage that much harder…. 

HSTA: Teacher pay bills advance in key House committee

Another Bill Killed off by HGEA using same strategy: House Committees Refuse to Hear SB2422 -- Bill Would Have Ended Foster Care Abuse Coverups

read … Bill To Boost Veteran Educator Pay Gets Pushback From Labor Unions

DPP Corruption Dooms Affordable Housing, Green Energy

SA: … In Tuesday’s speech, Blangiardi laid out big plans for improving affordable housing, including tax incentives and other financing strategies. But none of that will gain ground without fixing some serious problems at DPP.

Compounding its image as an agency that’s mired in bureaucratic inefficiency, a year ago five current and former DPP employees were arrested on federal bribery charges, underscoring the sense that some at DPP use a pay-to-play rulebook.

Blangiardi addressed dysfunction in the department, describing a DPP self-assessment to identify “gaps, inefficiencies and irregularities.” The mayor cited a DPP administrative audit of the third-party reviewers who provide services to expedite permits: Only about half of their projects met requirements for permits.

Blangiardi’s approach starts with staffing up at DPP. Over three years, 80 positions will be added, and 80 vacancies will be filled. There’s new software to help modernize residential permitting, which he promised would go live this year. A lot of the backlog has been solar photovoltaic system permitting, and there’s now an online platform to streamline that process, too.

The administration also is expanding the city’s active role in financing, issuing tax-exempt private activity bonds and providing exemptions from the general excise tax for qualifying affordable housing projects.

Why does this wonky stuff matter? Simple, he said: Without fixes, the push for housing and a post-COVID economic recovery will fail….

2020: Free Golf, Methamphetamines, and Building Permits

read … Fixing Department of Planning and Permitting’s problems

Three Steps to Improve Ethics in Hawaii Government

SA: … near-term solutions that could help include (1) requiring lobbyists to undergo ethics training and holding them accountable for illegal gifts; (2) making watchdog agencies more financially autonomous (less dependent on legislative appropriations and the need to maintain a good relationship with legislators); and (3) strengthening the conflicts of interest law to include a legislator’s direct business interests, such as actions that impact an employer or client.

The state House of Representatives also recently created the Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct. It is tasked with drafting recommendations that broadly improve the standards of conduct for public officers and employees. This commission has a diverse and respected group of members, and I am highly optimistic that some exceptional recommendations will come out of this group. If anyone wants to contribute ideas to this commission, they are welcome to reach me at rharris@hawaiiethics.org….

read … Robert Harris: The new director of the state Ethics Commission works to improve public trust in government

Maui County Charter Amendments Could Create Even More New County Bureaucracies

MN: …  Elections for the Maui County Council — nine members who are chosen by voters across the county — will stay as they are if the council’s version of charter amendments makes it to the ballot in November.

The council voted on Friday to approve its version of 13 charter amendments proposed by a citizens panel that will now have a chance to accept or reject the council’s changes, potentially setting the stage for dueling proposals on the ballot….

charter amendments could bring changes to county departments, including separating the Department of Housing and Human Concerns into two departments to help focus more resources on the housing crisis, and creating a Department of ‘Oiwi Resources to support the county’s stewardship of Native Hawaiian cultural resources….

Background: 9/11 Conspiracy Theorist to Rewrite Maui County Charter?

read … Proposal would keep council election as-is

Hu Honua News: Big Island Mayor Asks Governor to Declare Energy Emergency

CB: … In a letter to Ige sent this week, Roth said an emergency declaration is needed to fast-track renewable energy projects currently under review by the Public Utilities Commission….

In Roth’s view, the PUC should be required to review renewable energy projects within 60 days. If they meet certain criteria, the commission should approve them, Roth said….

(Two Words: Hu Honua.)

SA: Hawaii’s gasoline prices second highest in the country

read … Big Island Mayor Asks Governor to Declare Energy Emergency

Raising a new Generation of Potheads: Legislators Push More Candy Marijuana Edibles--Less Flavored Vape for Hawaii Children

SA: … Michele Nakata, program manager of the department’s Office of Medical Cannabis Control and Regulation, appeared before the Senate health and consumer protection committees last week to testify on House Bill 2260. The measure aims to improve access to the products that registered patients can use for various illnesses.

This is happening at the same time the product list itself has expanded. DOH has approved revisions to its dispensary rules, which now allow for a wider array of edible products containing the active ingredients in medical cannabis. Now gummies, chocolates, beverages, brownies, cookies and other items can be sold.

As for HB 2260, which the committees passed on for a pivotal review by the Judiciary and Ways and Means panels, Nakata said the department “absolutely supports” the objective of improving access to the products.

Chronic understaffing at DOH is what’s in the way: Nakata said all the growth has occurred with only herself and two inspectors providing supervision….

VP: Amendments to Hawaii’s Proposed Vape Flavour Ban

Editorial: Protect kids from flavored vaping temptation 

read … Editorial: More medical cannabis

Man killed in Waianae shooting was released from prison six months ago by order of HPA

HNN: … The man killed in Tuesday's Waianae shooting is identified in court documents as Chad Duran, 32. He was released from prison about six months ago.

Growing up, Duran had been a standout football player at Waianae High School. But after high school, he had run-ins with the law.….

(IDEA: Abolish football.)

The Hawaii Department of Public Safety (DPS) told KITV4 that Duran was released from prison last September, after serving less than half of his 20 year sentence for manslaughter.

Duran killed his friend, 26-year-old Christopher Medieros, on September 12, 2012. He shot Medeiros in the face at Medeiros' apartment on Lahaina Street in Makaha.

He was arrested for murder but ended up pleading guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter, saying he brought a loaded gun to Medeiros' home and that the gun went off during a dispute….

Duran was sentenced to 20 years in prison, with credit for time served. He had previously been arrested in 2010 for promoting dangerous drugs, and was put on HOPE probation, but he had been in and out of jail for violating the terms of his probation. He had been on HOPE probation at the time of the 2012 shooting.

Despite being sentenced by a judge to 20 years, Duran was released from Waiawa Correctional Facility after serving only nine years.

A spokesperson for DPS told KITV4: "In 2013 the Hawaii Paroling Authority set Chad Duran's minimum term at 9 years. He was paroled on 9/15/21. On February 23, 2022, HPA issued a parole revocation warrant for failure to comply with the terms and conditions of his parole release."…

Flash forward to Tuesday morning's shooting in Waianae -- police said Duran fired the first shot, and the person he shot at returned fire, killing him.

As for the man who shot Duran, KITV4 asked the Honolulu Department of the Prosecuting Attorney if it's being considered self-defense.

A spokesman replied: "We have not made any charging decisions regarding that portion of the case. It is still under active investigation.”  He did nopt say: “You have to understand that this homeowner took one of our most promising young criminals from us just as he was hitting his stride.  That kind of wrongdoing cannot go unpunished."…

(BETTER IDEA: Charge HPA with both shootings.)

read … Man killed in Waianae shooting was released from prison six months ago

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