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Sunday, August 21, 2022
August 21, 2022 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:24 PM :: 3162 Views

Can We Sack the GET?

More Cleavage: HSTA Cheers Gay-Friendly Dress Code

Hawaii Congressional Delegation How They Voted August 20, 2022

Hawaii Construction Employment Down 6.6%

Hawaii: Which Counties have the longest commute?

Hawaii Community Colleges Ranked

Union Members May Opt-out of Political Contributions

Carpenters Game Plan: Green Will Sign Bill Extending GE Tax for Rail, Luke Won’t be in Legislature to Stop it

Shapiro: … Voters rebuffed a vicious $2 million campaign by the Hawaii Carpenters Union to defeat Rep. Sylvia Luke in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor, in retaliation for her refusal as House finance chair to permanently extend the 0.5% excise tax surcharge for the union’s cherished Honolulu rail project.

But the carpenters’ failure to defeat Luke doesn’t mean the battle is lost to extend the rail tax — at least enough to finish the commuter line to Ala Moana Center….

Luke’s departure as House finance chair to run for LG removes the most powerful skeptic in the Legislature of more state money for rail.

Those who succeed her will think twice before drawing the carpenters’ ire and millions of mudslinging dollars directed at Luke and other rail dissenters before her.

If Luke is elected LG on the Democratic ticket with Josh Green as governor, she’d still have a voice, but final say would rest with Green, who benefited from critical carpenters support in his runs for lieutenant governor in 2016 and now governor. As LG he appointed a union lobbyist his chief of staff.

I asked his position on a temporary or permanent extension of the rail tax, and Green said, “If we do extend rail to Ala Moana, which would likely mean extending the duration of the 0.5% GET tax, we have to have more transparency, accountability, oversight, and controls over spending. We need to know we are getting our money’s worth for big projects.”…

(Translation: Green will sign bill raising GE Tax for rail.)

There’s little transparency; Blangiardi says he can’t discuss the recovery plan because of federal restrictions, and HART routinely answers “no comment” to simple media inquiries — and even some questions from its own board and the City Council.

Permanent extension of the rail tax could end all accountability, amounting to an endless slush fund that enables rail officials to conceal major problems that seem to become public only when they must ask for more money….

Borreca: Josh Green and Sylvia Luke are now a team, but how well can they work together?

SA: State Rep. Sylvia Luke compares her reborn relationship with running mate Lt. Gov. Josh Green to “an arranged marriage.” -- “This ticket is a problem for our staffs,” Luke told the Star-Advertiser, remembering their “Unity Breakfast” speeches. “They’re going to be cringing.”

read … Carpenters union lost a battle on rail tax, but war still on

Nonprofit’s non-bid COVID contract was a lucrative ‘sweetheart deal’ for Caldwell Cronies--and Milton Choy

HNN: … the city’s airport testing program meant big profits for a local non-profit and its partners.

When former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s administration wanted to set up a mobile COVID testing lab at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport two years ago, it awarded a non-bid contract worth $19.5 million to the National Kidney Foundation of Hawaii and its partners.

Copies of contracts and change-orders obtained by Hawaii News Now under the state’s Open Records Law show that the city paid a steep price — approximately $120 per test….

Ge Bai, a Johns Hopkins University accounting professor and an expert in healthcare pricing, estimated that it costs testing companies about $20 per test.

“That is an outrageous amount. At the beginning of the pandemic, the Medicare program determined that it’s gonna pay $51.33 for each test and that is already a very generous payment,” said Bai.

Bai is the co-author of studies investigating the high cost of COVID testing in Hawaii and concluded that the testing companies profited from the pandemic.

One report — published in the Wall Street Journal — looked at data from the Hawaii Tax Department and showed that between May 2020 and December 2020 revenues at the local testing companies grew at a compound rate of about 8% a month….

Testing expert Dr. Scott Miscovich said the Kidney Foundation’s comparisons are skewed. He said local testing labs had to invest heavily to provide and expand their labs for mass COVID testing.

City contract records show that the Kidney Foundation and its partners didn’t have much set up and lab costs because the city paid more than $11 million of those start-up costs….

Miscovich called it a sweetheart deal and added the federal government should audit the Kidney Foundation’s contract.

“The biggest travesty of this is that massive profits went out the door to political insiders and people who had no business taking the state’s money or the federal government’s money,” said Miscovich.

Miscovich is referring to the Kidney Foundation’s politically-connected subcontractors.

One of them is H20 Process Systems, LLC.

The Kidney Foundation’s Form 990 filings with the Internal Revenue Service for its 2020 fiscal year shows that it paid H20 $241,000 to sanitize and handle hazardous waste for the airport lab.

H20 is headed by Milton Choy, the businessman who is accused of funneling more than $41,000 in bribes to former state. Sen. J. Kalani English and ex-state Rep. Ty Cullen.

Another subcontractor — Capture Diagnostics — is the target of a Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission investigation into alleged illegal political donations.

Earlier this month, Hawaii News Now reported that the commission subpoenaed the bank records of two Capture Diagnotics employees — former Department of Transportation official Wes Yonamine and a Capture Diagnostics project coordinator Jordan Kurokawa.

Kurokawa is the son of Gary Kurokawa, Caldwell’s former chief of staff who signed off on the airport testing contract.

The investigation is looking into whether Capture Diagnostics illegally reimbursed the two for their political donations….

WSJ: Government helped labs earn windfall profits from the pandemic.

read … Experts: Nonprofit’s non-bid COVID contract was a lucrative ‘sweetheart deal’ that gouged taxpayers

“It is a known fact that MPD was and is full of corruption” -- SHOPO, ‘Corrupt’ Cops Work to Fire Maui’s ‘Outsider’ Chief

MN: … Eight county employees have filed complaints against Pelletier and members of his executive staff, alleging a hostile workplace, including harassment in the workplace and gender discrimination, according to information provided to the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers. Five of the complaints were made by women and three were made by men.

After meeting for about an hour in a closed executive session Wednesday, the commission set a special meeting for 9 a.m. Sept. 7.

At the Police Commission’s meeting Aug. 3, Chuck Spence, co-chair of the MPD Multi-Cultural Advisory Counsel, said “it is a known fact that MPD was and is full of corruption.”

“And thank God the commission heard the plea of the community and brought in a chief from outside this county and not from the old guard,” Spence said. “But the bad seeds have not yet all been ripped out from the soil of this department. They’re trying to rise up again and regain control. These ‘unprecedented’ number of complaints against the chief are an obvious coordinated effort led by employees who once ran their game unimpeded under previous administrations.

“I can tell you from my knowledge that this is a coordinated effort to bury this great chief. This effort began before they even met Chief Pelletier.”….

Mrs Pelletier said her family “has endured so many ugly complaints, false accusations” for the past eight months.

“Now the false accusations that my husband is threatening females, violence in the workplace, I would really love to hear their accusations saying what my husband has done as far as violence,” she said. “If you think f— is a violent word, I understand that. That is not OK. Use a different word.

“But under the terms he used it by saying, ‘I don’t want another f—ing officer on the wall from fallen officers shot in the line of duty or hurt in the line of duty.’ It’s passion. We’ve seen too many officers lose their life in the line of duty.”….

read … Emotions rise as commission reviews complaints against chief

Affordable housing fraud: Finance Committee approves downsized audit request

HTH: … 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 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.

The resolution now calls for the auditor “to conduct a performance audit of the Office of Housing and Community Development to ensure the efficient issuance and utilization of affordable housing credits, comprehensive accounting of credits, tests of the current control environment, and related criteria as determined necessary by the Auditor.” …

Background:

read … Affordable housing credits: Finance Committee approves downsized audit request

Mauna Kea: If Protesters aren’t Bought off by 2027, All Telescopes will be Removed

AP: … The result is the new governing body, the Mauna Kea Stewardship and Oversight Authority, which will have a board of 11 voting members. The governor will appoint eight. Gov. David Ige hasn’t set a date for announcing his nominees, who will go before the state Senate for confirmation. He said more than 30 have applied….

Lawmakers drafted the law after a working group of Native Hawaiian cultural experts, protesters, observatory workers and state officials met to discuss Mauna Kea. Their report, which dedicated a large chunk to the historical and cultural significance of the mountain, formed the foundation of the new law.

Several kia’i who served on that working group support the authority. The House speaker has nominated one kia’i leader for the board….

The master lease requires that all existing telescopes be decommissioned and their sites restored to their original state by 2033 if the state doesn’t authorize an extension.

Simons said it will take at least five or six years to dismantle the telescopes and associated infrastructure. That means new lease arrangements must be ready by 2027 or the observatories will have to begin winding down.

“There’s no obvious way around this,” Simons said. He said he’s pressing for the authority to be established as soon as possible to maximize time for negotiations and inevitable legal challenges.

Rich Matsuda, who works for W.M. Keck Observatory and served on the working group, urged the eventual board members to avoid being “stakeholders with narrow interests just trying to ensure that they get their piece of the pie.”…

(Actually that is exactly what is needed.  A Kala Pie for ‘stakeholders with narrow interests’ so they will stop protesting.)

WHT: Hawaii has a reputation as a notoriously difficult place to start a business. Kicking out astronomy won’t help.

read … Hawaii seeks end to strife over astronomy on sacred mountain

Your Tax Money at Work: Schatz climate activism produces $370B Money Shower

WaPo: … It was “a political miracle,” Schatz added.

Schatz, 49, embodies a new type of climate hawk on Capitol Hill — one that resonates with a younger generation of climate activists determined to win buy-in not just from environmentalists but also from farmers, ranchers, Native people, labor groups, low-income communities and corporations, too. Schatz, who chairs the Indian Affairs Committee, understood that the people who are affected must be brought into the effort.

He doesn’t do it alone. He and two of his colleagues, Sens. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., who is 50, and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., who is 66, teamed up over the past decade to craft a new model of persistent activism inside the power corridors of Congress alongside a growing climate-focused advocacy.

And they still work alongside other Democrats who have long prioritized climate, including Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, 76, who spearheaded the failed 2010 cap-and-trade effort and the Green New Deal, and Sen. Thomas Carper of Delaware, 75, who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, and played a role in crafting the Democrats’ $370 billion climate bill.

read … ‘The Three Climateers’: Hawaii’s Brian Schatz among new generation of Senate climate hawks

Put further sunscreen bans on pause

SA: … As dermatologists, we always encourage our patients to incorporate sunscreen in their daily activities, including anything outside, such as running, cycling, yard work or playing sports, to reduce the risk of skin cancer. With only mineral sunscreens available to residents of Maui County and Hawaii island, we’re concerned that bans will take away the sunscreens that people use most often, which may cause people to skip sunscreen altogether. Hawaii already has the highest rate of UV-caused melanoma in the nation, and further bans may exacerbate the problem….

In a report announced on Aug. 9, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) said more research is needed on sunscreens’ impact on aquatic environments. They recommend that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conduct an environmental risk assessment to characterize possible risks.

The report said, “Environmental exposure and hazard data on sunscreen ingredients are limited, and there is not widespread agreement about whether the available research sufficiently supports conclusions that individual ingredients have, or do not have, negative effects on aquatic organisms.” In other words, there is not enough data to support a ban on any kind of sunscreen.

Many coral reef researchers and toxicologists agree. Research so far has been conducted in labs at concentrations 100-1,000 times higher than what is generally found in the ocean. It’s unfortunate that this exaggerated science is misleading people to believe that sunscreens are more harmful than they really are.

Additionally, the NASEM report doesn’t draw a definitive conclusion about whether measures to restrict the sale and use of certain sunscreens are scientifically justified or effective. It also points out that “reef-safe” is only a marketing term, and there is no scientific definition behind the term for sunscreens. The report showed how titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, the two ingredients in mineral sunscreens, are also known to be toxic to marine life at high concentrations, so pushing everyone only to wear mineral sunscreens doesn’t make sense.

The American Academy of Dermatology applauded the NASEM review of scientific research, saying, “the Academy supports the recommendation that studies be conducted to determine how any changes to the availability of UV filters would impact human health.”

The inconclusive scientific data means that a sweeping ban on sunscreen products is unwarranted. Additionally, basing bans on inconclusive science sets a dangerous precedent for future legislation whose scientific basis is tenuous at best and doesn’t consider the cost to all of us.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the US. About 20% of Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer by age 70….  

read … Put further sunscreen bans on pause

Kauai finds new way to Make Houses Even More Expensive -- Putting Them On Stilts

CB: … Kauai would become the state’s first municipality to regulate construction based on flood projections spurred on by sea level rise…

The Kauai Planning Department submitted a draft ordinance to the County Council this month that would mitigate the intensifying effects of climate change by requiring owners to hoist up new construction on stilts in areas susceptible to impacts from a projected 3.2-foot increase in sea level. The proposed mandate would also apply to rebuilds where the cost of improvements to a structure equals or exceeds 50% of the market value….

read … Kauai Wants To Disaster-Proof New Buildings By Putting Them On Stilts

Vice President Kamala Harris arrives on Kauai for vacation, greeted by Red Hill protestors

KITV: … Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff arrived on Kauai for a vacation away from bustle of Washington.

As their motorcade pulled up near the Kalihiwai Ridge home where the second couple are staying, they were met with people holding 'Shut Down Red Hill' signs. ….

read … Vice President Kamala Harris arrives on Kauai for vacation, greeted by Red Hill protestors

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