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Sunday, October 30, 2022
October 30, 2022 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:08 PM :: 1566 Views

“Dedicated Funding Source”?  Nah

Supply-side constraints to expanding Hawaii residential housing

Public meetings for proposed UH tuition increases in 2025, 2026

Big money makes Hawaii elections look more like auctions

Shapiro: … Donors led by developers, contractors, lawyers, lobbyists and business execs purchased influence by giving some $20 million to Hawaii political candidates so far this election. Buying and selling politicians is our most recession-proof industry.

Hawaii’s next governor could appoint three Supreme Court justices in his first term. No wonder so many attorneys are donating to Democratic front-runner Josh Green’s campaign.

For the second time this year, a judge let a state legislator off the hook on drunken driving charges after they refused field sobriety tests — first Rep. Sharon Har and now Rep. Matthew LoPresti. Judges credited them for their negative IQ tests….

Hawaii’s parade of corruption continued as Wayne Inouye, former Honolulu chief building inspector, pleaded guilty to federal charges of accepting more than $100,000 in bribes. The only time our public officials stand up for us is when the judge says, “Will the defendant please rise.”…

read … Big money makes Hawaii elections look more like auctions

More to Waste: TAT fattens county budget

HTH: … Hawaii County’s new tax on hotels and short-term rentals helped sweeten county coffers to an extent unseen in previous years.

The county ended the last fiscal year with $70.4 million left over to be applied to future budgets, according to an Oct. 14 report to the County Council…

(REALITY: This money will cover public employees’ so-called ‘hazard pay’ bonus.)

Finance Director Deanna Sako said the balance is the largest she’s seen in her many years in the Finance Department. She attributes the surplus primarily to the new 3% local transient accommodations tax that went into effect Jan. 1, as well as increases in property taxes bought about by a growing real estate market. Careful spending by county departments also helped, she said (without even a smirk)….

The county generally budgets to allow more revenue to come in than is spent in order to keep a buffer for unexpected expenses and emergencies (like gigantic arbitration awards for ‘hazard pay’). Attempts by some council members earlier this year to offer some financial relief by rolling back property taxes were met with resistance from the council majority….

read … TAT sweetens county budget: $70.4M surplus to be applied to future budgets

$475K Damages After Lawyers Try to Collect $150 Fine For A Condo Association

CB: … Porter McGuire Kiakona now faces $475,000 in damages for violating debt collection laws in a case that started with a $150 fine against a dog owner….

The association’s governing documents require the condo owner being sued to pay the legal bills of the lawyers suing the owner, court documents indicate. So when Porter McGuire sued Warta in state court in 2016, and racked up more than $14,000 in legal fees, the firm turned to Warta to collect.

As the complaint against Porter McGuire describes it, the firm’s debt collection attempts eventually took on a life of their own, as the firm racked up even more fees against Warta related to collections.

“It became about attorney’s fees,” Warta’s attorney Justin Brackett said in an interview.

The dispute took an intense turn in April 2019, when Porter McGuire placed a $29,000 lien on Warta’s property on behalf of the association. The original fine against Warta, Brackett said, was $150….

At the center of the Warta case is a federal law meant to protect people from abusive debt collectors. Called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the statute among other things prohibits a debt collector from using “any false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in connection with the collection of any debt.”

In their complaint, Warta’s lawyers alleged Porter McGuire used such prohibited communications during a years-long campaign that involved sending Warta a stream of letters containing false and confusing information about the bills he owed the firm….

the ability of the associations to place liens on a condo owner’s property to cover fees tips the scale even further against the owners.

“Some associations are extremely predatory,” Wright said.

O’Meara called the set-up “a cash cow for the AOAO firms.”…

read … Here’s What Happened When Lawyers For A Condo Association Tried To Collect Their Fees

9% of Hawaii elementary schools exceed limits for lead in drinking water

SA: … Three-quarters of Hawaii’s public elementary schools have tested positive for high lead levels in at least one sink or drinking water fountain, according to extensive testing recently completed by state health officials as part of a nationwide push to reduce childhood exposure to the heavy metal that can cause permanent developmental disabilities.

Thousands of samples were taken from 178 elementary schools throughout the state over the past two years. A sample taken from a kitchen sink at the Hawaii School for Deaf and Blind had the highest detection, 2,054 parts per billion, which is 137 times the 15 ppb action level set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Overall, 9% of the samples collected from the school had lead levels above the threshold, with the second highest registering 76 ppb….

At most schools, a very small percentage of the samples tested above the EPA level. But at Barbers Point Elementary on Oahu, 22% of the 83 samples collected tested at or above 15 ppb, including a sink that registered lead levels that were 141 ppb.

About 15% of the samples collected at Kailua Elementary and Keolu Elementary, which is also in Kailua, were at or above 15 ppb.

Overall, less that 5% of the samples tested above the EPA action level. But that still translates to several hundred drinking water sources, including a kitchen sink at Hanalei Elementary School that registered lead at 379 ppb; a water fountain at Iroquois Point Elementary on Oahu that had a lead level of 128 ppb; a water fountain at Waimea Elementary on Hawaii island that had 103 ppb of lead; and a water fountain at Haiku Elementary on Maui where lead was detected at 340 ppb….

SA Editorial: Testing for lead in Hawaii schools

read … Majority of Hawaii elementary schools test positive for lead in drinking water

Legislative Agenda: Another Bill Extending DHHL Commercial Leases?

CB: … A dispute between the federal government and Hawaii over land leases could stretch well into next year and beyond, likely requiring intervention from state lawmakers and eventually congressional approval.

The disagreement between the federal Department of the Interior and the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands arises out of a law adopted in 2021 that would allow the state’s lessees – some who already have 55- or 65-year leases – to apply for lease extensions of up to 40 years if they agree to make substantial improvements to their properties.

The law, known as Act 236, was intended for tenants of the Department of Land and Natural Resources to provide businesses with long-term stability to make it easier to secure financing. Questions about how it applies to DHHL commercial leases cropped up recently at a series of Hawaiian Homes Commission meetings that contemplated extending the lease of the Prince Kuhio Plaza mall in Hilo….

While lawmakers may take up the issue next year, there’s no consensus three months before the start of the next session on how the Legislature will move forward.

Sen. Lorraine Inouye, who is running for reelection, was a proponent of the 2021 law and believes it should apply to the DHHL’s leases. Inouye said that the issues DOI has raised over congressional approval never came up when lawmakers discussed the bill in 2021.

“There was some discussion over how this bill would apply to Hawaiian homelands. At that time, it seemed like it was a ‘yes, it could apply,’” Inouye said.

She also supported lease extensions for the Hilo mall. Although Inouye is a proponent of long-term state lease extensions, she said she is not ready to introduce a bill to the Legislature next session.

If she retains her seat and her position as chair of the Senate Water and Land Committee, Inouye said she plans to hold a series of legislative briefings on this leasing issue with department officials and the state Attorney General’s Office.

Even if Inouye pushes for another lease extension bill, the proposal may meet some resistance in the House.

Rep. David Tarnas, who chairs the House Water and Land Committee, said he believes that the focus of Act 236 was on DLNR’s land leases. DHHL did not testify on the measure as it moved through the Legislature although one of its tenants, the Prince Kuhio Plaza, did testify in support of it.

If he wins reelection in November, Tarnas said he does not plan to introduce a bill to extend the DHHL leases….

read … State, Feds At Odds Over Extension Of Hawaiian Homeland Leases

Legislative Agenda: The high cost of pre-K

SA Editorial: … If Hawaii hopes to implement pre-K education for all by 2032, the state must work steadily over the next decade to improve pay, train and recruit enough early childhood educators to staff those classrooms. That’s the takeaway from a new report commissioned by the University of Hawaii-Manoa’s Hawaii Early Childhood Educator Excellence and Equity Project (ECE3)….

Will money for subsidies be carved out of the current state pie? Are there other ways to increase revenue? Might federal dollars be allocated for this purpose?

REALITY: Judge orders preschool to shut down amid contentious dispute with state

REALITY: Judge asks parents to ‘hang in there’ as dispute between state, preschool is hammered out

read … The high cost of pre-K

Maui Hotel moratorium close to ending

MN: … Maui County Council members are one step away from ending the temporary visitor lodging moratorium, but are also seeking to keep the cap on transient vacation rentals at existing levels.

At the next full council meeting on Nov. 4, the council will take up Bill 159 on second and final reading, which with its passage, would repeal the temporary moratorium that was put in place Jan. 7. Members voted 7 to 1 in favor of Bill 159 on first reading on Oct. 21.

The moratorium on new visitor units was enacted to allow the council to implement recommendations from a Tourism Management Temporary Investigative Group or in two years, whichever is sooner. The move came after residents called for relief from the impacts of overtourism such as overcrowding, depleting natural resources, traffic woes and other concerns.

Bill 159 amends the existing comprehensive zoning ordinance in areas that relate to transient accommodation caps. It would allow existing transient vacation rentals built before Jan. 7, 2022, to be reconstructed, renovated, or expanded if no new rooms or transient vacation rental units are added.

Other highlights of the bill include:

• New hotel construction or expansion would be allowed as long as new rooms and units be built landward of the mapped line for coastal erosion hazard line of 3.2 feet of sea level rise, which is determined by the director from the State of Hawaii Sea Level Rise Viewer hosted by the Pacific Islands Ocean Observing System.

• Temporary or permanent parking of camper vans, recreational vehicles, trailers or similar apparatus that are used or rented for commercial transient accommodations would be prohibited in all zoning districts.

• Timeshare units would be allowed in certain areas, but with a conditional permit and the sea level rise requirement. Existing timeshares would be allowed to be reconstructed, renovated, or expanded if no new rooms or timeshares are added….

read … Hotel moratorium close to ending

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