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Tuesday, April 25, 2023
April 25, 2023 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:18 PM :: 1736 Views

Red Hill closure reignites debate over Jones Act

Is the Jones Act Unconstitutional?

HECO ‘Green Energy’ Plan Depends on Giant Floating Windmills and 20,700 acres of new Solar

SA: … With little due diligence, the 2015 Legislature passed a law mandating that 100% of our electricity come from renewable resources by 2045. Good progress to date, but how will we get, on Oahu, from 29% renewable energy today to the required 100%? In a thorough four-year process, Hawaiian Electric (HECO) developed an “Integrated Grid Plan” (IGP) which addresses this question. But is the plan practical? Reasonably achievable? Affordable? The public has been given until April 21, this Friday, to provide input.

The 100% renewable law leaves the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and HECO no choice but to try to carry out the directive, showing ever-decreasing fossil fuel slices of the generation mix each five years. The IGP provides a “preferred generation mix,” but what does this reveal?

Shockingly, 25% of Oahu’s power is planned to come from offshore windmills by 2035. Yes, either giant floating windmills or windmills sprouting from the ocean floor around Oahu. Perhaps HECO is drawing from a 2021 federal feasibility study that remarkably references floating windmill hubs 541 feet above sea level with blade tips reaching higher than a 90-story building. And one of the study’s three potential sites: “an eastern site off Kailua that nearly reaches Molokai.” Egad. Is this the visual environment and potential marine impact we want for our future?

The report further states that Oahu “will need nearly 3,200 megawatts (capacity) of large-scale solar generation by 2050 built on 20,700 acres of land.” This is equivalent in area to a one-mile swath of land reaching from Diamond Head to the Turtle Bay Resort. We ask: Shouldn’t that amount of land be left available for future residential development or sustainable agriculture? The report sensibly provides a land-constrained plan, but at even half of the “needed” level, is this the future we want for Oahu?

Another major concern pertains to customer-based solar, either residential rooftop or business sited. The progress from 14.1% of the generation pie in 2022 to 18.2% in 2040 seems reasonable. But the land-constrained plan more than doubles customer-based solar between 2040 and 2045. Is this startling jump wishful thinking just to meet the 100% mandate?

The report also brings light to the “hidden cost” of 100% renewable, stating that an “investment of $1.33 billion through 2035 to expand or create new transmission interconnection points between renewable projects” will be required. Ratepayers will get to repay the $1.33 billion to HECO plus a rate of return— in addition to $500 million for the Kapolei battery farm, with neither project generating any electricity. The words “increasing the financial burden on our citizens” come to mind.

We encourage readers to go online to hawaiipowered.com/igpreport Opens in a new tab — your voice is important to our energy future….

read … Speak up now on clean-energy grid plan

HECO wants public to not use their power overnight

MN: … A Hawaiian Electric community meeting April 13 for a presentation of its Integrated Grid Plan quickly turned into a warning that by 2027, there will be a serious shortfall of electric generation due to a combination of the closure of petroleum-based electric generation and the failure of renewable projects to materialize….

Hawaiian Electric is rolling out an experimental program that will raise electric rates by two and three times from 6 p.m. to 9 a.m. to see if people will change their electric use behavior.

This means that overnight, when solar is not available, Hawaiian Electric would like you to not use their electricity….

read … HECO wants public to not use their power overnight

Hu Honua Supporters Will Not Give Up

IM: … Several viewpoints and letters to the editor have been written recently insisting that Hu Honua`s tree burning facility should be brought on-line. Glen Kagamida wrote a letter-to-the-editor in today`s Honolulu Star-Advertiser. 

Kagamida argued that the Hu Honua plant is being “blocked by a vocal minority and activist public officials who disregard the amended HRS 269-6(b).”

The proposed plant has three giant problems. First, Hu Honua would emit more greenhouse gases per megawatt-hour of electricity than any other power plant connected to the HECO, MECO, and HELCO grids. Second, most of the time the Hu Honua facility would displace solar and wind generated electricity. Third, Hu Honua would raise electricity rates for all Big Island ratepayers. Hu Honua is a lose-lose-lose proposition….

read … Hu Honua Supporters Will Not Give Up 

Bishop Museum probe ends -- ‘Nothing to see here, just move along’

SA: … In a statement to the Hono­lulu Star-Advertiser, Supervising Deputy Attorney General Nathan Chee of the Tax and Charities Division said, “The Department of the Attorney General has concluded its review of the complaint and related materials concerning Bishop Museum. The department will take no further action with respect to the complaint.”

An art dealer and an anthropologist had filed the complaint with the state Department of the Attorney General accusing Bishop Museum’s board of directors of breaching their fiduciary duties and squandering the museum’s charitable assets.

Caroline Yacoe, owner of Pacific Pathways and a specialist in Melanesian art, joined Roger Rose, an anthropologist, in filing the complaint with the department’s Tax and Charities Division on Dec. 21. The 14-page complaint, filed by Yacoe and Rose on behalf of “concerned citizens in the community,” called for an investigation of the board after three museum executives were placed on paid administrative leave in 2022 over alleged workplace concerns.

Any member of the public wishing to call for an investigation of a nonprofit or charitable entity supported by public funds may file a complaint with the division.

Whether the allegations made in a complaint warrant a formal probe by the division will be up to the department’s investigators….

Best Comment: “Nice try. But Pitluck and the Board had too many friends in high places for the right thing to be done.”

read … Bishop Museum probe ends with no findings

Controversial 6-foot walls remain in latest Ala Wai flood mitigation proposal

HNN: … The latest flood mitigation plan for the Ala Wai Canal is starting to take shape, and it still includes large walls that have been unpopular with the public.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed 6-foot flood walls that would go up in Manoa along Woodland and Koali Roads.

Walls would also go up near Kaimuki High School and around the entire golf course and the Ala Wai Canal.

“It’ll be pretty ugly….”

read … Controversial 6-foot walls remain in latest Ala Wai flood mitigation proposal

Military Training Leases Coming up for Renewal

SA: …  Several state lawmakers and mayors toured Army facilities Monday and witnessed training on Oahu and Hawaii island with Gen. Charles Flynn, the service’s top commander in the Pacific. As the day drew to a close Monday evening, an Army Black Hawk helicopter carrying Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi and Flynn landed at Fort Shafter’s Palm Circle, and the two exited to address media….

The Army has been pro­actively preparing for what could be a fight to renew leases on state land that the military trains on, which are set to expire in 2029. Since November 2021, when fuel from the Navy’s underground Red Hill facility tainted the service’s Oahu water system, which serves 93,000 people, island residents and leaders have been reassessing their relationship with the military….

As the Army looks to revamp its operations for the Pacific after two decades of focusing on operations in Afghan mountains and Iraqi deserts, it’s looking to training ranges in the Pacific. It has established the Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center, a series of ranges in Hawaii and Alaska, along with an “exportable” set of training exercises around the region. Much of the Hawaii land the Army uses for JPMRC is leased state land.

“We’re trying to be good stewards and to look after the aina, look after all that we have been afforded the opportunity to do here in Hawaii,” said Flynn. “I know that often we’re viewed as sort of instruments of war, but the reality of it is what we’re trying to do here is maintain the peace and create a safe and stable environment, and Hawaii — and the military in Hawaii — plays a central role in the ability for our country to be able to do that across this region.”…

But state lawmakers and officials have lately become more vocally critical of military practices in the islands. In 2022 several officials criticized a draft environmental statement on retaining land on Hawaii island’s Pohakuloa Training Area, including areas the state has designated as a conservation district.

In its comments on the draft EIS, the state Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands wrote that “it appears that military training is in direct conflict of the Conservation District designation.”…

Henkin added that “particularly in the light of the debacle at Red Hill, where the public trust in the military has really eroded, it’s important that just as part of repairing relationships with the people of Oahu … it’s time to give (Makua) back to the people so that they can take good stewardship of them.”…

read … Military training areas in Hawaii under scrutiny

Retaliation Lawsuit: How Self-Dealing Insiders Jack up Condo Fees

CB: … Testing a Hawaii law prohibiting retaliation by condominium boards, a trial began on Monday pitting a retired Army officer against several prominent members of Hawaii’s real estate and development community who served alongside the retired officer as directors of one of Honolulu’s landmark luxury condominiums.

Mark Brown, a former member of the board that oversees Hokua at 1288 Ala Moana, alleges that other board members unlawfully retaliated against Brown after the retired colonel raised concerns about purported improprieties committed by other board members.

Developed by the Kobayashi Group, MacNaughton and Alexander & Baldwin, Hokua was among the first in a wave of luxury condo towers built in a part of Kakaako now known as Ward Village.

The suit centers on a 2017 law designed to prevent condominium boards from retaliating against owners, board members, managers or other insiders who raise questions about potential violations of state condo law or association bylaws.

Named as defendants are several Hokua board members with ties to the developers. They include Alana Kobayashi Pakkala, an executive vice president and managing partner of the Kobayashi Group; Todd Hedrick, a MacNaughton employee; Scott MacKinnon, a lawyer for Hokua’s developers; Vernon Inoshita, a prominent architect whose firm designed Hokua’s Alii Penthouse, and Walter Guild, a colleague of Kobayashi Pakkala’s husband at a real estate company that has served as a broker for Hokua and other Kobayashi-MacNaughton condo projects.

The lawsuit’s overarching assertion is that the board members used their positions to help themselves and each other — in some cases at the expense of the condo owners in general — without disclosing conflicts of interest as required by association bylaws.

When Brown began investigating and raising questions about the purported misdeeds, the suit alleges, other board members retaliated by removing him from his position as board vice president and from the association’s committees on renovations and budget and finance. It also alleges the board disseminated defamatory information about Brown to other owners to discourage the owners from using Brown as their proxy in condo matters….

Typical of the allegations in Brown’s complaint is one involving a no-bid interior decorating contract awarded to Guild’s aunt. According to the suit, in May 2018, the board voted to hire Philpotts Interiors based on Kobayashi Pakkala’s claim that the work would cost about $8,500. After the vote, the suit alleges, Guild instructed that the draft proposed contract with Philpotts not be circulated, and accordingly, Kobayashi Pakkala refused to let Brown see it, even though Brown was a board member with fiduciary duties to the other owners.

Regardless, in July, Brown obtained copy of the draft Philpotts contract and discovered that it committed Hokua owners to pay up to $22,500 plus any costs for additional services, instead of the $8,500 Kobayashi Pakkala had said.

After Brown informed Guild, Kobayashi and other board members of the disparity between the estimate and actual cost, the suit says, Guild improperly retaliated by removing Brown from the renovations committee.

Although Guild’s aunt is a principal owner of Philpotts, Guild voted in favor of the contract without disclosing the conflict, the suit alleges….

DCCA RELEASE: REAL ESTATE COMMISSION TO STAGE VIRTUAL CONDORAMA EDUCATION EVENT

read … Prominent Honolulu Condo Board Members Are On Trial For Alleged Retaliation. Here’s Why

HB1502: Journalist shield law makes progress

SA: … Among the measures awaiting one last push in conference committees toward enactment is House Bill 1502. The measure essentially would restore the 2008 “shield law” limiting how much the state could compel journalists to disclose unidentified news sources and unpublished notes.

In 2011, the law was allowed to sunset, making it more difficult to gather news information….

read … Journalist shield law makes progress

Sunshine Bill Rewritten in the Dark--Twice

CB: … A bill to lower the cost of public records that was substantially changed without public input earlier this month may be revised significantly one more time — and again without public participation.

But this time it’s going pretty much back to the way it was.

On Monday Sen. Angus McKelvey surprised Rep. David Tarnas with a new draft of House Bill 719, the bill that started the session as a vehicle to reduce the cost of public records but later morphed into something that also allowed government officials to keep secret a lot of information on how officials make decisions on public policy.

McKelvey offered to remove so-called deliberative process privilege, but only if the House agreed to sunset the reduced fees after three years.

read … Conference Committee as Usual

Conflict Of Interest? Neighborhood Board Employees Are Running For Seats On The Boards

CB: … Elections for the boards are just getting underway, as 425 candidates begin vying for seats on the island’s boards. Voting begins Friday and runs until May 19.

The Neighborhood Commission Office employs a total of 13 people — nine of them are running for seats on various boards..….

The commission employees running for board seats, besides Dylan Whitsell, are Judi-Ann Smith Kauhane, Partner Akiona, Thomas Baldwin, Lindon Valeriano, Naomi Hanohano, Dylan Buck, Zhoydell Magaoay and Travis Saito….

read … Conflict Of Interest? Neighborhood Board Employees Are Running For Seats On The Boards

Tentative deal reached on tax breaks as legislative session enters home stretch

HNN: … Key lawmakers say they have reached a tentative agreement on tax breaks for Hawaii residents.

The news comes as the legislative session enters the home stretch Monday, with the first formal negotiation session over the $20 billion state budget.

State Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz will lead the Senate side of negotiations. He says only a couple of technical issues remain on a package of tax breaks aimed at low and middle income families.

“It’s always helpful to have a surplus, but I know that the Legislature as a whole realizes that there are some unmet needs that need to be taken care of this year,” he said.

That said, there are more than 400 bills to work out over the next five days.

Big issues still up for negotiation include the repeal of the Hawaii Tourism Authority and how much to spend on marketing and managing tourism.

Also being debated:

  • Plans to replace the obsolete Oahu Community Correctional Center;
  • Whether to help OHA improve its harbor properties in Kakaako;
  • and an effort to build a massive first responder training and headquarters center in Central Oahu….

Historically, most of the budget talks happen at night — and behind closed doors.

CB: House And Senate Agree On State Budget, But Tax Cuts Still Aren’t Finalized

read … Tentative deal reached on tax breaks as legislative session enters home stretch

‘Almost authoritarian:’ Hawaii’s Cold War speech law may go

AP: … A Cold War-era law in Hawaii that allows authorities to impose sweeping restrictions on press freedoms and electronic communications during a state of emergency could soon be repealed by lawmakers over concerns about its constitutionality and potential misuse.

Those who are worried about the law, which allows a governor or mayor to suspend “electronic media transmissions” during a crisis, say that language could now also be interpreted to include social media posts, text messages and emails, as well as reporting by media outlets.

The Hawaii Association of Broadcasters says the existing law appears to be unique among all 50 states and violates the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

“We get into a situation where ... somebody could suspend electronic media because they don’t like what’s being said about them,” said Chris Leonard, the association’s president, who also operates a radio station on the Big Island….

read … ‘Almost authoritarian:’ Hawaii’s Cold War speech law may go

Maui Mayor’s budget handles debt, spending responsibly

MN: … Last month, Bissen submitted a $1.227 billion budget to the county Council for consideration, and though that figure may seem large, it is only a 1.3 percent increase — $15.6 million — over last year’s budget.

Notably, the budget proposal contains a commitment to pay down county debts and liabilities to lower mandatory interest payments in future years. Only 5.7 percent of the budget, $61.3 million, would be dedicated to paying interest on bonds.

By way of comparison, Honolulu routinely spends close to 20 percent of its budget on interest payments because of large city debts, many of which are related to the over-budget rail project.

Bissen’s budget also would slash the county’s reliance on bond debt to just $64 million — down $87 million from last year’s budget. By relying less on bonds, the county would be able to lower its interest payments over time, which would free up those monies to go toward lower taxes or other priorities.

It also contains a proposal to increase payments on unfunded liabilities for health benefits for retirees, which could more quickly pay off that debt. As of July 2022, the county’s unfunded retirement benefits stood at $160.4 million…. 

GRIH: Resolution No. 23-129 a good start but Maui Council could do more to reduce property taxes

MN: Budget, Finance and Economic Development Committee to evaluate community input on Maui 2024 budget priorities

read … Mayor’s budget handles debt, spending responsibly

Bullying, drug and alcohol use down among county teens

MN: … the 2021 Hawaii Youth Risk Behavior Survey for all the counties, which showed that 14.1 percent of Maui County public school students in grades 9-12 were bullied in 2021 — a downward trend from 2019, when 18.1 percent reported being bullied. 

Additionally, nearly 34 percent of Maui County teens in 2021 reported having used illicit drugs, the second highest rate behind Hawaii island (37.6 percent). The most commonly used drug in Maui County is marijuana (15 percent).

This is still better than 2019 when 49.4 percent of teens on Maui, Molokai and Lanai reported having tried drugs. 

Also in Maui County, 18 percent of high school teens in 2021 reported having had at least one drink of alcohol on at least one day in the past 30 days of the survey, which is much lower than the 27.7 percent reported in 2019….

Related: DoH Releases Hawai‘i Youth Risk Behavior Survey

read … Bullying, drug and alcohol use down among county teens

Hawaii Governor Plans To Develop More Tiny Home Villages Statewide

CB: … Gov. Josh Green promised more tiny home villages will be built around the state, regardless of opposition from local communities, as his administration tackles homelessness.

So far 25 potential locations have been identified, he said Monday on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s “Spotlight Hawaii” program, with the idea that 15 of them will ultimately be chosen and developed over the next four years.

He referenced the pop-up kauhale near The Queen’s Medical Center that’s planned to open in about a month, as reported by Hawaii News Now.

Homeless patients make up about 30% of emergency room visits, he said, and these discharged patients would recover better in a kauhale with a medical respite center than unsheltered on the street.

This pop-up will be close to Green’s official residence – across the street from the Capitol, “in my backyard,” he said. That statement stood in contrast to those who object to having homeless services nearby in a trend known as NIMBY, or not in my backyard.

When asked on Spotlight how he plans to pitch these tiny home villages to potentially unwilling host communities, Green urged people in Hawaii to embrace the concept but said he was going forward regardless.

“It’s not a pitch, it’s a reality,” he said….

A tiny home village called Kamaoku opened in Barbers Point in late 2021. Standalone units provide beds for up to 36 people, who all share common bathroom and laundry facilities. The total cost was $4.6 million, ($139,400 per bed, ridiculous) of which the state paid about $1.8 million. Rent is $500 per month….

SA: Homeless ‘medical respite’ kauhale planned on Oahu

TGI: Drunken Bums Removed from Parking Lot

read … Hawaii Governor Plans To Develop More Tiny Home Villages Statewide

Russian spy intrigue fizzles as Hawaii stolen ID trial nears

AP: … U.S. prosecutors who introduced Russian spy intrigue into the case of a couple accused of living for decades in Hawaii under identities stolen from dead babies are now saying they don’t want jurors to hear about photographs showing them wearing foreign uniforms.

A U.S. judge granted the request last week, ruling that the uniforms are not relevant to the upcoming trial for charges involving identity theft and passport fraud. Defense attorneys have said from the start those uniforms were worn once for fun….

read … Russian spy intrigue fizzles as Hawaii stolen ID trial nears

Nightmare at the DMV: Hawaii woman struggles with legal loophole

KHON: … “I had no tickets for a long time. I thought everything was good. I put in my transfer form, everything was good on my end,” Childers said.

However, at the beginning of the year, Childers began receiving a slew of tickets for the car she had sold, including expired registration, expired safety check, and parking tickets.

“I had no idea at first until I started getting default judgments in the mail,” she explained. To date, Childers has been hit with 20 tickets totaling over a thousand dollars….

To prevent others from facing a similar situation, Hashiro recommends the seller go with the buyer to the DMV to complete the transfer together….

read … Nightmare at the DMV: Hawaii woman struggles with legal loophole

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