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Wednesday, March 23, 2022
March 23, 2022 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:05 PM :: 2588 Views

Hawaii Worst Taxpayer Return on Investment

Hawaii Residents Spend Most on Groceries--as a Percentage of Income

City Departments Work to Conserve Water amid Strain on Water Supply

Billionaire-backed developer under investigation for illegal political donations

HNN: … The state Campaign Spending Commission is investigating a local developer for alleged campaign finance abuses.

In a complaint made public Tuesday, the commission alleges that Timothy Lee, CEO of JL Capital, improperly reimbursed three employees and a former worker after they gave $12,000 to the political campaigns of former Honolulu mayoral candidates Kym Pine and Keith Amemiya in 2020….

The commission’s investigation is based on bank records that they subpoenaed from Lee, his employees and the former worker….

The commission had scheduled a hearing on Wednesday but deferred the matter to its next meeting….

During the past several years, JL Capital has invested tens of millions of dollars for new projects in the Kapiolani corridor….

The largest is the Sky Ala Moana condo project which the company is doing in partnership with another developer. The company also owns the former KGMB building on Kapiolani Boulevard and the Like Like Plaza on Keeaumoku Street.

JL Capital, which is backed by South Korean tech billionaire Joon Ho Lee, is also a major political donor in Hawaii.

A Hawaii News Now review of state Campaign Spending Commission shows that Lee and JL Capital employees and their relatives contributed more than $66,000 to nearly a dozen candidates…. 

CB: State Investigation: Hawaii Investment Firm CEO Falsified Campaign Donations

2020: Corona Towers: Council Hides Behind Quarantine, Gives Development Deal to Convicted Felon

read … Billionaire-backed developer under investigation for illegal political donations

Mauna Kea Management Bill Would Mean ‘An End To Astronomy’--Decision Delayed After Opposition Testimony

CB: … The Senate Higher Education Committee heard testimony Tuesday on the bill. Sen. Donna Kim, who chairs the committee, said she expects the committee to vote on the measure Wednesday. She said she plans to pass the bill with amendments.

The bill would need to pass one more committee before going to the full Senate.….

UH officials say they didn’t expect the bill to make it this far.

“The bill is currently crafted and projects an eventual return of the summit region to its natural state,” Greg Chun, executive director for UH Hilo’s Center for Maunakea Stewardship, said in an interview on Monday. “That means an end to astronomy with some undetermined future, and that’s a decision that has not been fully vetted in a conversation with all the people of Hawaii.”…

read … Mauna Kea Management Bill Would Mean ‘An End To Astronomy’

Conference Committee will decide minimum wage bill in Secret

SA: … Hawaii’s minimum wage now appears centered on one bill at the Legislature instead of two.

The Senate Committee on Labor, Culture and the Arts on Monday amended a bill first introduced and passed in the House so that the measure now closely resembles the Senate’s minimum wage bill calling for a shorter and quicker acceleration in the hourly minimum to $18 from the current $10.10.

Meanwhile, it looks as though House leaders don’t intend to keep the Senate minimum wage bill in play, by letting a procedural deadline today for advancing the bill lapse….

The jostling further sets up what is anticipated to be an ultimate negotiation by House and Senate leaders to compromise later in the legislative session, which ends May 5….

(Translation: This will be decided in secret in Conference Ctte.)

read … Hawaii lawmakers tussle over 1 minimum wage bill

State funding for Hawaii Tourism Authority up for secret debate in Conference Committee

SA: … The state House of Representatives is allotting the Hawaii Tourism Authority a dollar to pay for its operations, and has eliminated all money for staffing in the version of the state budget that it transmitted to the Senate.

An earlier version of House Bill 1600, which was supported by HTA, provided the agency with a $60 million budget, which included funding for 25 positions, and a $28.5 million expenditure ceiling for a Hawai‘i Convention Center’s enterprise special fund. It also included $64 million in capital improvement funds to repair the convention center’s leaky roof.

The House’s transmitted version allocates $1 for the convention center and $1,000 to fix its roof. The entire House budget includes nearly $8.6 billion in general funds and almost $16.7 billion in all means of financing.

The Senate Committee on Ways and Means held a hearing Tuesday on the transmitted budget but deferred decision making until April 5. After WAM makes a decision on the budget, the House and Senate will come together to craft a final budget at the end of April, which will be voted on in early May….

read … State funding for Hawaii Tourism Authority up for debate

REIT Tax is Dead (again)

KITV: … Senate Bill 2246 would've changed the tax structure for these REITs….

Gladys Quinto Marrone, Executive Director of National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts Hawaii, said in a statement that:

"Changing the state's tax structure for REITs would not generate any kind of windfall for Hawaii. In fact, it would have the opposite effect. This change in tax status would result in a much greater loss in general excise tax revenue for the State." …

read … Hawaii lawmakers table bill that would have altered Real Estate Investment Trust tax structure

Burning Wood For Power? It’s A Question Utilities Commission Nominee Will Face

CB: … Anyone wondering what key lawmakers want from Gov. David Ige’s nominee to the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission can look at a recent exchange between the outgoing PUC chairman, Jay Griffin, and Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz.

One of Hawaii’s most powerful lawmakers — he’s chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee —  Dela Cruz wanted the PUC chairman’s view on “firm renewable” electricity, which is typically generated by burning wood, biodiesel or natural gas produced from things like garbage and human waste.

Firm renewable projects in the works include Hu Honua Bioenergy, a controversial wood-burning project seeking approval on the Big Island….

In addition, AES Hawaii, which operates a coal-fired power plant on Oahu, has proposed switching to firm renewables by burning wood after its current contract with Hawaiian Electric expires in September….

VIDEO: Hawaiʻi Island Faces Higher Electricity Bills

read … Burning Wood For Power? It’s A Question Utilities Commission Nominee Will Face

HGEA Keeping The Hawaii State Hospital Closed

CB: … The shiny new hospital building has remained empty for more than a year as the state resolves personnel issues, construction problems and design flaws…. The new psychiatric facility cost $160 million and has already been standing empty for a year, mostly because of labor and training issues, design flaws and some construction defects that need to be fixed….

(Translation: HGEA likes getting paid to do nothing for two years.  They call it ‘training.’)

read … ‘Careless Mistakes’ And Other Problems Are Keeping The Hawaii State Hospital Closed

During COVID, School Meals Became a Total Scam, Here’s How

CB: … Public school students have been eligible for free breakfast and lunch during the pandemic through a program that is set to expire in June….

(Its a sham.  Here is what has really been happening….)

The waivers also gave schools more flexibility, allowing them to provide things such as grab-and-go meals and multiple meals pick-ups on school campuses. The USDA also provided a higher meal reimbursement rate for schools to ease the financial cost….

Hawaii also experienced one of the steepest drops in average daily participation in the school lunch program between the 2018-19 and 2020-21 school years. Roughly 100,200 kids took advantage of school lunches just before the pandemic, but that number dropped to 39,400 by 2020-21, a 61% decrease, according to a February 2022 report from Food Research & Action Center….

“Our drop (in Hawaii) was twice as large as the national average,” said Nicole Woo, director of research and economic policy at Hawaii Children’s Action Network. “The DOE did shift to providing free grab and go meals (during the pandemic) which was commendable but we still had one of the worst drops in the nation.”…

Paul Kepka, the principal of Kamaile Academy, a pre-K to 12 public charter school on Oahu’s Waianae coast, saw firsthand how the federal waivers expanded access to meals in the surrounding community.

At one point the school, where 94% of kids qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, was able to serve close to 1,000 to 1,600 meals daily to kids in the broader area….

“It allowed for drive-through food service, walk-up food service, non-congregating food service where kids didn’t have to eat in the cafeteria,” Kepka said….

At the Kualapu‘u Public Charter School on Molokai, principal Lydia Trinidad said the USDA waivers allowed the school to serve kids who weren’t yet old enough to attend school.

“The biggest thing is we were able to serve our meals in different locations,” Trinidad said. “Molokai is spread out — we could deliver to other schools or other communities” versus having to serve those meals in the cafeteria only, or just during school hours….

“By taking advantage of waivers to deliver meal kits to rural communities, we could define rural as anything but urban Honolulu,” Spoto added. “Any child under 18 could sign up to get free meals last summer.”

Trinidad said that at her school, parents could pick up meals for other families.

“Delivery access beyond the walls of the school is what will change” if those waivers go away, Trinidad pointed out….

read … Hawaii Kids Could Lose Access To Free Meals At School With End Of Federal Funding

What to do with $27M of airport equipment after Safe Travels?

KHON: … The state Department of Transportation spent $27 million of federal funds to install thermal scanners and tracing cameras last year at airports statewide. They were used to detect people who have a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher as a way to track incoming passengers who may have COVID. But on March 26, the state will stop doing that….

“What do we do with this equipment, very expensive equipment sitting there on your property?,” said Sen. Sharon Moriwaki.”And I couldn’t get an answer. They said, ‘Yeah it’s there but it’s not really us. It’s HIEMA, or maybe it’s Department of Health.'”

She has introduced a resolution pushing the DOT to come up with a plan to re-purpose at least some of the equipment. A hearing was held on Tuesday on what options are on the table….

DOT says the tracing cameras can be used for security and surveillance. “There are discussions to re-purpose the infrastructure… for increased airline efficiencies of having paperless/touchless ticketing.”…

Moriwaki adds that decisions need to be made soon because the contracts to maintain the equipment end on June 30….

read … What to do with $27M of airport equipment after Safe Travels?

Crimes committed by teens are on the rise

KITV: … The 2021 statistics aren’t in yet but Retail Merchants of Hawaii President Tina Yamaki said it’s clear theft is on the rise again.

“Once the store is open, we started to see a lot of grab and goes, a lot of people shoplifting, a lot of the same suspects coming back into the stores again and lifting things. It’s sad. “

And she said many of the criminals are younger than you’d think.

“Everybody thinks people who are shoplifting they’re adults,” she explained. “That’s not really the case. What we’re seeing with organized retail crime is kids that are as young as an elementary to intermediate school.”

According to police on March 15th, a 15-year-old boy attempted to steal more than $27,000 in jewelry from a store at a popular shopping center.

“There was a theft that happened at one of the stores at Waikele (Premium Outlets),” Yamaki said. “And there was a lot of jewelry that was stolen. My understanding is the suspect has been apprehended.”…

KHON: Recent crime wave has community increasing security

read … Crimes committed by teens are on the rise

Government red tape purposefully 'zaps' Hawaii's electronic gun sales

KITV: … E-guns, such as tasers or stun guns, became legal in the islands at the start of the year.

But even though electronic guns have been legal for months, island businesses are not yet legally authorized to sell the devices and residents are not yet allowed to buy them.….

(CLUE: This is purposeful.  They are waiting for the Legislature to act.)

No gun shop on any island has had their permit approved. Which means not a single e-gun has been sold, since the beginning of the year.

"Right now, we cannot sell any tasers to anyone who wishes to purchase them," said Tom Tomimbang, co-owner of 808 Gun Club.

While the law went into effect across the state, it has been up to each county to develop permitting processes.

On Oahu, businesses not only had to submit an application but also pass a background check through the Honolulu Police Department.

Even though, the stores may have already be allowed to sell rifles and hanguns, for which background checks take much less time.

"For a firearm, it has been about 2 weeks. Now, for the e-gun background check it has been been 2 months," stated Tomimbang.

According to Honolulu's Department of Customer Services, back ground check requirements were dropped last Wednesday. Now more than a dozen businesses that already put in their paperwork will have to re-submit their application before it would be approved.

Other counties are still hammering out the details of electronic gun sales…

read … Government red tape 'zaps' Hawaii's electronic gun sales

ACLU Latest Gambit--Contested Case for Homeless Sweep

HNN: … Residents of the Puuhonua o Kanaha encampment filed the suit saying the county forcibly evicted them from the property in September. They claim the county seized and destroyed their personal belongings.

Before the sweeps took place, dozens of residents apparently filed for a contested case but the county never responded.

With the help of the ACLU, several people filed the lawsuit, which the county moved to dismiss….

read … Judge denies Maui County’s request to dismiss lawsuit over sweep of homeless camp

Committee wants Ethics Board to look into Napili home’s approval process

MN: … As construction on a controversial eight-bedroom, two-story home in Napili proceeds, a Maui County Council committee said Tuesday it will send its questions about the home’s approval process to the Board of Ethics to possibly examine the issue further….

read … Committee wants Ethics Board to look into Napili home’s approval process

Revisionist History: Russian Fort is no Longer Russian

TGI: … A state House committee moved forward a resolution to formally rename Waimea’s Russian Fort Elisabeth State Historical Park to Pa‘ula‘ula.

The resolution urges the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to make the name change and develop new marketing material for the site. DLNR is also urged to work with the National Park Service to update the National Historic Landmark designation for the site to incorporate the Hawaiian name….

earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Justice announced charges against Elena Branson, a dual citizen of Russia and the U.S., for acting as an illegal Russian agent, advancing the interest of the Russian government and receiving funding from high-level Russian officials while being tasked with advancing the foreign government.

In part, the charging documents pointed to Branson lobbying Kaua‘i County Councilmember Felicia Cowden for the retention of the fort’s name.

Cowden, in written testimony submitted Monday, voiced her individual support for the name change.

“As a participating member of the Waimea park working group, I observed that consensus was generally reached across all stakeholder groups roughly three years ago to accept a name change that better reflects the Hawaiian heritage of the park, now beautifully graced with the statue area of King Kaumuali‘i,” Cowden wrote in testimony. “The change is long overdue.”

(IQ Test: Are you laughing?)

Background: Kauai Council News: Only Felicia Cowden was Craven Enough to Accept Putin Junket

Background: Feds Indict Russian Agent -- Organized Kauai Council Junket to Russia

read … State House resolution urging Waimea park renaming

A popular Hawaii destination may be the state's 'No. 1 drowning capital'

SFG: … The island of Maui had the highest number of snorkeler drownings with 94 deaths, followed by the island of Oahu, which had 70 snorkeler drownings during the same time period. And of all the beaches on Maui, Puu Kekaa is the single location with the highest number of snorkeling-related fatal drownings, with 18 visitor deaths.

Hanauma Bay on Oahu had 28 visitor deaths due to snorkeling during the same time period, but Puu Kekaa is still suspected to have the highest rate of death.

“Hanauma Bay has got to have 10 times the number of people than Black Rock,” Daniel Galanis, injury epidemiologist for the Hawaii State Department of Health, told SFGATE. “When you translate it to incidents per given number of people there, it’s a pretty good assumption that the rates are higher for Black Rock.” …

read … A popular Hawaii destination may be the state's 'No. 1 drowning capital'

Legislative Agenda: 

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