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Wednesday, March 30, 2022
March 30, 2022 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:18 PM :: 1769 Views

We can breathe freely again; what have we learned?

‘Shipping security’ more Jones Act shibai

Vacant Homes? Hawaii Ranks 18th

Hawaii 2nd Highest Tax Burden in USA

Minimum wage mostly hurts the people it is intended to help

Federal Investigators on Oahu --  Will FTA Cut off Honolulu Rail?

SA: … Federal transit officials are on Oahu this week asking questions about reducing rail construction to 19 stations over 18.75 miles at a cost of $9.8 billion.

($744M hangs in the balance after years of HART ‘recovery plan’ failures.)

The new updated “recovery plan” has to be approved by the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation’s board of directors and the City Council before going to the Federal Transit Administration by a June 30 deadline — a tight time frame that has Council member Heidi Tsuneyoshi worried she won’t hear answers to all of the Council’s potential questions.

“When we get the recovery plan, it does have to go through committee and then adoption by the Council,” Tsuneyoshi said. “There will be no time. And it’s coincidental that the recovery plan comes when we also have to finalize the (city) budget on June 30. It’s a huge concern for me and for the taxpayers. … This is basically how things have been going from the start, with information that’s not forthcoming. It keeps happening. This is something that we really need transparency on.”…

Just getting through the City Council, the plan will require “multiple hearings,” Kahikina said. “It’s an extremely tight schedule. First we have to write it.”

(Translation: FTA was not happy with Blangiardi’s empty-handed visit to DC prior to the State of the City speech.  Now we suddenly have a deadline that nobody knew anything about before.  This a is typical Hanabusa-style operation.  Go to feds--tell them the dog ate my homework.) 

The FTA officials are joined by a project management oversight consultant considering as many variables as possible in a process known as a “risk refresh,” Kahikina said.

The exercise involves “identifying all of the possible risks that you can think of: inflationary costs due to COVID….”

(Translation: The feds are about to refigure HART ridership projections after COVID decimated transit ridership on TheBus and nationwide.)

The answers will affect the construction budget and timetable for completion.

(Translation: After years of malfeasance and doubletalk from Honolulu, FTA is considering cancelling the $744M payment to the most expensive rail project in USA as a warning to the rail lobby that there really are some limits.)

The results of the risk refresh are not expected until mid-April, Kahikina said, but FTA officials “know we’re on an extremely tight deadline.”

(Actually, the FTA imposed that deadline on HART.)

At the same time, two unrelated issues between mismatched wheel and track widths appear close to being resolved.

(NOTE: These were the excuses used to prevent rail from commencing service and thereby exposing the low ridership.)

“The track issue is being addressed,” Kahikina said. “Both issues are going to be completed by the end of April.” 

(Timing is everything.)

There was no endorsement of the new plan during face-to-face meetings with FTA officials in Washington, D.C., earlier this month. (Translation: Blangiardi showed up empty handed and the FTA was not impressed.) But (Because FTA was so unimpressed,) there was an emphasis from the FTA on meeting the June 30 deadline to provide an updated plan, she said….

Related: HART: Recovery Plan Does Not Exist (yet)  Key sentence: “…this was a very quick turn-around trip for me….”

CB: Right now, there is only one rail issue, and that’s money.

read … Feds checking Oahu’s new rail plan for potential problems

Is It Time To Cut Hawaii’s Gas Taxes?

CB: … Hawaii families continue to struggle with the high cost of living and we should consider other, more immediate efforts to support our communities as we continue to recover from the pandemic. One way would be to suspend the state tax on gasoline.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the national average for the price of gas went up by 70 cents a gallon, the highest since the financial crisis in 2008. A recent AAA survey showed that 75% of Americans would adjust their lifestyle if the price of gas reached $5, an amount Hawaii already has exceeded.

According to AAA, Hawaii drivers are already paying $5.08 a gallon for gas, third highest in the country after California and Nevada. Suspending the state’s 17 cent-a-gallon fuel tax for the rest of the year would put hard-earned dollars directly into the pockets of consumers….

read … Rep. Roy Takumi: Is It Time To Cut Hawaii’s Gas Taxes?

BWS chief engineer worries Red Hill fuel contamination could be spreading

HNN: … Lau told HNN that his program manager, Irwin Kawata, attends twice weekly meetings of an Aquifer Recovery Focus Group attended by 80 stakeholders, including the Navy, state Health Department, Board of Water Supply and EPA. He says the revelation came out in the last week or two.

“It looks like its fuel contamination is spreading in areas that it hasn’t spread before and it might have been the result of what happened last year,” said Lau.

He added there have been 72 fuel leaks of 180,000 gallons or more over the years.

He speculated last year’s fuel releases could have pushed fuel from prior releases into the area.

“With the releases last year, it could have triggered the past releases to start moving that might have been in the area in the bottom of the tanks and above the top of the aquifer,” Lau said.

He doesn’t know how many more monitoring wells could be contaminated, but he’s asking the Navy for the data.

“He’s (Kawata) heard during the meetings, references to a new monitoring well being drilled and they encountered fuel. Maybe only drilling 30 feet down before they hit the aquifer below that they are finding fuel,” said Lau.

“They are finding fuel at higher levels on the Moanalua side of the fuel tank facility, which is kind of concerning,” he added….

Big Q: Will you heed the Honolulu Board of Water Supply’s call to conserve water?

CB: La Nina is supposed to bring copious rain to Hawaii, but not so far this year, with implications for ranchers and water customers.

Related: Don’t Use Red Hill as Excuse to Shut Down Affordable Housing Construction

read … BWS chief engineer worries Red Hill fuel contamination could be spreading

Bill To Limit Public Access To Government Records Is Dying In The Senate

CB: … A bill that would make it more difficult for the public to get access to “pre-decisional” government records is quietly dying in the state Senate, but lawmakers want to establish a working group to consider when those records should be made public, and when they should be kept secret.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Karl Rhoads said Tuesday he will not hold a hearing on House Bill 2303, which means the measure will fail this year.

That bill would have amended the state open records law known as the Uniform Information Practice Act to specifically allow public agencies to keep secret certain “drafts, internal memoranda and correspondence” and other “pre-decisional materials” that are part of the agencies’ internal decision-making processes.

The bill would have effectively reversed a far-reaching 2018 ruling by the state Supreme Court in a case called Peer News LLC v. City and County of Honolulu.

The court in that decision rejected the idea that agencies have a blanket  “deliberative process privilege” that can be used to withhold agency records that are deliberative or “pre-decisional” in nature….

Related: Open-records exemption would open Pandora’s box

read … Bill To Limit Public Access To Government Records Is Dying In The Senate

Ige’s New Attorney General Faces Senate Questions Over Employee Complaints

CB: … Ige appointed Shikada to take over as attorney general in December after Clare Connors left to become Hawaii’s U.S. attorney.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, which is vetting Shikada’s nomination, asked the AG’s office and Daniel Hanagami, the disgruntled state investigator, for documents related to complaints Hanagami made against the department and Connors.

Sen. Karl Rhoads, the committee chairman, said his staff was still trying to obtain those documents Tuesday afternoon. A preliminary vote on Shikada’s nomination is expected Friday. Rhoads said he is not sure how the committee members might vote, or if the documents could raise new concerns over the nominee.

Hanagami, 71, told lawmakers that he filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last year, claiming that Connors and other department officials discriminated against him because of his age.

That civil rights investigation is still ongoing. Hanagami also told the senators that he feels as though he works in a hostile environment. He said the AG’s office asked the state Department of Public Safety to investigate him after he used pepper spray to detain a homeless man who had attacked him.

He feels that those episodes, as well as the department’s support of a bill that would have created a new fraud unit in the AG’s office are systematic attempts to strip him of his authority. The AG’s office has previously said that is not the case….

RELATED: Big Win for Mafia: Biden Appoints AG Connors US Attorney

RELATED:  Chief Investigator: State Attorney General Refusing to Indict Government Corruption Cases

read … Ige’s New Attorney General Faces Senate Questions Over Employee Complaints

Dozens protest bill proposing ban on commercial activity at some Oahu beaches

KITV: … Bill 38 proposes to ban professional photography, tour companies, and other commercial activity at some beaches on Oahu's east and north shores. The bill cleared all readings and hearings in the Honolulu City Council and was sent to the mayor's office two weeks ago.

Dozens rallied outside Honolulu Hale Tuesday morning urging Blangiardi to veto the bill, calling it unfair because it exempts the film industry. …

"So what they're saying is that these places are sacred, except for when the movies come in, you know, but really what is sacred is we are fighting for families," wedding officiant and musician Ellsworth Simeona said. …

The deadline for Blangiardi to decide on the bill is April 5.  …

read … Dozens protest bill proposing ban on commercial activity at some Oahu beaches

Smith & Wesson Sues Hawaii Over The High Cost Of Public Records

CB: … Gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson is suing the state Attorney General’s Office over what it sees as an exorbitant amount of fees for public records related to firearms issues.

The AG’s office wanted as much as $27,000 for the records requested by the gun manufacturer and said it would take attorneys hundreds of hours to complete the request, the company says in a civil lawsuit filed Monday. The lawsuit says Smith & Wesson filed similar records requests in other states, but has not faced the same barriers to access.

“It appears to the client and it appears to us that the amount of time the state is claiming, and therefore the amount of fees, is an effort to discourage the public records request,” attorney Jeff Portnoy, who is representing Smith & Wesson, said….

read … Smith & Wesson Sues Hawaii Over The High Cost Of Public Records

Trumpster Election Fraud Show Comes to Hawaii

CB: … there is a challenge to the 2020 vote, and the Hawaii State Elections Commission is taking it seriously, including at a public meeting set for Friday. And it’s not about those long lines to vote outside Honolulu Hale and Kapolei Hale during the primary.

(CLUE: There are real problems at the Office of Elections, and the Trumpsters are helping distract from them.)

Adriel Lam, a Kaneohe resident, has asked the commission to investigate whether Hawaii’s voter registration records — described by Lam as “critical infrastructure” — might somehow be vulnerable.

It’s complicated, but at its core it boils down to whether the voter databases handled by the four counties and shared with the state are accurate — and, by extension, whether the final vote was accurate. In that, Lam’s complaint echoes election inquiries made by the Trump team and others, even as the 2022 election approaches.

“There are a lot of inconsistencies in the voter registration database,” Lam told me Tuesday, adding that he has not been satisfied with the answers that state and county officials have given him so far. “Many of my friends received extra ballots, their kids never got an update on their voter registration on the database end, deceased people received ballots.” ….

The multiple back-and-forth emails and letters that started in April 2021 over the Lam complaint make for mind-numbing reading. (It’s all posted on the elections website, so have at it.)…

I asked Lam about some of those “specific examples” of voter roll irregularities. He pointed to his contention that in the City and County of Honolulu, several hundred more ballots appear to have been cast than there were envelopes distributed to hold them. He also cited one Oahu precinct, 39.5 in the Kunia area, that has nine registered voters and yet 12 votes were cast….

But Sandy Ma, the executive director of Common Cause Hawaii, expressed worry in an email to me that some commissioners seem “fixated” on the 2020 election and may be looking to the Office of Elections to “conduct a sham 2020 election review spurred on by repudiated talking points from partisan operatives from the continent.”

… Lam’s Facebook page depicts Trump in a positive fashion and is replete with the hashtags #RedWave, #MAGA, #KeepAmericaGreat and #MakeHawaiiGreatAgain….

Meanwhile:

read … Hawaii Is The Latest State To Get Hit With Claims Of Election Fraud

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