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Tuesday, July 26, 2022
July 26, 2022 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:49 PM :: 1515 Views

Report: Hawaii Housing Deficit Increases 98% Since 2012

How Hawaii GE Tax Squeezes Private Practice Doctors

Four Charged in Big Island Affordable Housing Corruption Scheme

Applicants Sought for Hawaii Elections Commission 

Sam King Leads OHA Fundrace

CB: …A prominent Thirty Meter Telescope supporter and attorney emerged as the leader in the field in campaign donations for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs board of trustees race. But political observers say incumbents have the advantage of name recognition so traditionally have not needed to raise as much.

Sam King raised $35,675 between Jan. 1 and June 30 in his bid for one of three at-large seats on the board that are up for election, according to the latest campaign finance report.

King faces a crowded field of 10 other candidates….

OHA trustee-at-large Kealii Akina gave him a verbal endorsement, stressing it was in his private capacity.

“Sam has the intelligence, integrity, and commitment to serve the Hawaiian people and all people of the state,” Akina said in an email….


read … Newcomers Are Leading In Campaign Donations For OHA Elections. Will It Matter?

Hawaii County to audit housing credits at issue in federal probe?

HTH: …  Amid a growing corruption scandal, North Kona Councilman Holeka Inaba believes the county’s use of affordable housing credits deserves a deeper look, and he’s sponsored a resolution asking the county auditor to do just that.

Developers who agree to construct new affordable housing units in excess of any requirements imposed under county law may earn affordable housing credits. The credits can be transferred to other developers, who can use them to satisfy existing or future affordable housing requirements.

The county’s use of the credits has recently come under greater scrutiny, following a guilty plea to accepting almost $2 million in bribes from former community development specialist Alan Scott Rudo in the county Department of Housing and Community Development and the federal indictment of two local attorneys and a third individual.

A federal grand jury returned an eight-count indictment Friday against attorneys Paul Joseph Sulla, Jr. and Gary Charles Zamber, charged with six counts of honest services wire fraud and one count of conspiracy. Sulla is also charged with one count of money laundering.

Rajesh P. Budhabhatti, a Big Island businessman, was charged in separate complaints with conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud.

“Public trust in the county’s affordable housing credits processes has been broken. This audit of the Office of Housing and Community Development is an essential first step towards increased integrity and transparency in government,” Inaba said. “Our need for affordable housing continues and I believe this audit will guide us towards increased development of affordable units.”

The Housing Office provided Inaba a summary of affordable housing credits that have been awarded and use.

The report shows 18 projects receiving the credits over the past 20 years, with 1,042 credits still unused.

“With even more concern of corruption with these credits, now is the time to audit what has happened,” Inaba said….

Resolution 467-22 is scheduled to be heard Aug. 2 by the council Finance Committee….

Text, Status: Resolution 467-22

SA: 2 more face charges in Hawaii island housing fraud involving millions of dollars

read … Inaba seeks audit of housing credits at issue in federal probe

High inflation is top issue for Hawaii voters

SA: … More than two-thirds of Hawaii voters have altered their household spending due to high inflation, and half want a state gas tax suspension, new Hawaii Poll results suggest.

Some 70% of the survey’s respondents said their household had to adjust purchase habits because of higher prices, while the balance did not.

Inflation has been on a tear this year locally and nationally, and despite a recent dip the rate of inflation for Hawaii is forecast to reach a 31-year high of 6% for the full year.

read … High inflation is top issue for Hawaii voters

Majority of Hawaii voters think homelessness has increased

SA: … A majority of Hawaii voters participating in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Hawaii Poll indicate they have seen no improvement in homelessness in the islands, with 67% saying the problem has gotten worse over the past 12 months.

“Homelessness, I noticed, got worse,” said Ariunaa Maeda, a poll respondent from Honolulu. “I just see them everywhere. … The system is just not working. There should be a better solution for the homeless.”

Only 29% of people surveyed said the level of homelessness in Hawaii has remained the same….

read … Majority of Hawaii voters think homelessness has increased

HSTA getting unnegotiated $130M raise

HNN: … State public school teachers return to campus Tuesday for the new school year, including some who originally planned to retire.

They say a new law convinced them to keep teaching.

The state injected more than $130 million to adjust state Department of Education pay schedules so veteran educators can get the pay they say matches their years of service….

MN: State budget includes funds to end salary compression, which had stalled some teachers’ pay

SA: Teacher salary change in Hawaii sparks ‘unretirements’

KITV: Instead of retiring Hawaii teachers are returning to classrooms 

read … Who needs collective bargaining?

Rail project satisfies audit recommendations

SA:  … The current administration overseeing the city’s troubled rail project satisfactorily addressed nine recommendations made by the city auditor dating back to 2019 to control cost overruns, delays and other issues, according to a report released Monday.

City Auditor Arushi Kumar reported to Mayor Rick Blangiardi and the Honolulu City Council on Monday that its previous audit of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation in 2016 found “cost overruns and schedule delays (that) resulted from inexperienced HART managers and contractors who initiated and approved a plethora of change orders and amendments that increased project costs and contributed to schedule delays. We found insufficient justifications and documentation for many contract change orders and amendments.

“We also found that HART lacked internal controls to minimize costs and prevent schedule delays, and ignored or only partially addressed repeated PMOC (project management oversight contractor) warnings about internal controls and schedule impacts.”…

According to the latest city audit, “We found that since December 2020, HART has reduced the number of city employees from 115 to 52, a 55 percent decrease. Most notably, the number of personal serv­ices contract employees declined 57 percent from 101 in 2020 to 43 in 2022.”

And between December 2020 and April, HART further reduced the number of consultants “by 74 percent from 19 to 5 consultants,” according to the auditor’s update….

Kahikina and her team in early 2021 reviewed every HART position, including consultants and contractors, and cut the staff to 64 from 112 full-time equivalent positions, saving $246.7 million.

The personnel cost savings — combined with a “mauka shift” plan to reduce utility line relocation by moving the rail guideway mauka on Dillingham Boulevard — is expected to save the project a total of $914.9 million, according to the auditor’s report….

Link: Follow-Up on Recommendations from Report No. 19-01 and Select Recommendations from Report No. 20-05, on the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART)

read … Rail project satisfies audit recommendations

Land board OK’s updates to Maunakea plan

HTH: … CMS Executive Director Greg Chun said UH has an obligation to update its management plans, despite the fact that a new state agency will take over management of the mountain in 2028.

“It is our responsibility to manage Maunakea until it isn’t,” Chun said.

The primary changes to the plan are to a chapter describing the management plans governing certain aspects of the land such as cultural resources, construction guidelines, and more. The updated plan significantly expands those descriptions, and puts greater focus on outreach to the Native Hawaiian community.

But several members of the Native Hawaiian community on Friday urged the BLNR to reject the plan, with testifiers claiming they had not been given sufficient opportunity to provide feedback.

Big Island resident E. Kalani Flores said he believes the updated CMP is “deficient and incomplete,” adding that it was created with little consultation with Hawaiian cultural practitioners….

HPR: Native Hawaiians are concerned by a new telescope slated for the big island

Meanwhile: State Seeks Applicants for Mauna Kea Stewardship and Oversight Authority

read … Land board OK’s updates to Maunakea plan

Officials to consider restrictions for stun guns in Hawaii

KHON: … Sen. Rhoads said on the state level, there aren’t any restrictions on where stun guns can be carried yet. Private facilities like hospitals can make their own rules.

A bill that would’ve banned bringing the device to public schools, courts, state buildings, and airports died during the last legislative session. Lawmakers stated, it’ll likely get reintroduced.

“The Supreme Court decision basically says that we can put reasonable restrictions on where you carry your gun, not just your electric gun, but your gun in general,” Rhoads said….

read … Officials to consider restrictions for stun guns in Hawaii

Maui Memorial Responds to Petition

HNN: Hospital officials said in a statement that the pandemic has dominated the industry and healthcare has been immensely impacted throughout the nation.

“The pandemic and its effects have contributed to a well-documented nationwide trend of many professionals reflecting on balance in their lives and deciding to make changes,” Maui Health officials said…. 

SA: Maui Memorial doctors in ER are upset over alleged mismanagement

PDF: Maui Health Statement Take Back Maui Memorial Medical Center

read … ‘Silently suffering’: Surgeon starts petition, demands change at Maui’s main hospital

Book Club discussion of “The Mailbox Conspiracy” on Wednesday

ILind: … The Wednesday evening event will discuss “The Mailbox Conspiracy” by former federal defender Alexander Silvert, whose investigation into charges against Gerard Puana for allegedly stealing the chief’s mailbox ultimately led the conviction on federal corruption charges of former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha, along with his wife, Katherine Kealoha, a top Honolulu deputy prosecutor, and several Honolulu police officers.

This in-person discussion will be on Wed. July 27, with refreshments at 5:30 p.m. at da Shop’s Warehouse (3565 Harding Avenue in Kaimuki). Light pupu and refreshments will be provided. Joining the discussion will be author, Alexander Silvert, and I’ll be taking part as well….

Register to attend this in-person event.

And a recording of a virtual Q&A session with Silvert and Civil Beat reporter Nick Grube is available for viewing here.

read … Book Club discussion of “The Mailbox Conspiracy” on Wednesday

Ige’s about-face on air tour bill creates challenges for industry

HTH: …  A tour helicopter official said he’s “perplexed” Gov. Ige signed Senate Bill 3272 into law after announcing he intended to veto the measure, which requires air tour companies to report various details about each flight.

Casey Riemer, special projects manager at Jack Harter Helicopters on Kauai, noted in an email that Ige, in his intent-to-veto statement, said federal preemption prevented the state Department of Transportation from imposing or enforcing the regulations in the bill….

The measure, which became law as Act 311 upon Ige’s signature July 12, also establishes the Air, Noise and Safety Task Force.

“We are looking at all lawful options on what we will do regarding the changes in the Hawaii Revised Statutes related to our operations,” Riemer said. “It is our understanding that the State of Hawaii receives about $70 million in airport grants from the federal government, and we are surprised that the state … is willing to put that funding at risk by passing SB 3272 into law.”…

read … Ige’s about-face on air tour bill creates challenges for industry

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