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Sunday, May 21, 2023
May 21, 2023 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:19 PM :: 2181 Views

Another Rainy Day Slush Fund

A short list for the governor

Hawaii Republicans Still Trying to Figure out what to do After Convention Fails to Elect Party Treasurer

Hawaii Congressional Delegation How They Voted May 20, 2023

Legislature criticized for 12th ‘wild spending binge’

SA: … Hawaii lawmakers took special liberty this year to appropriate local taxpayer revenue far in excess of what the state Constitution and a related statute hold as typically advisable.

The Legislature earlier this month approved spending state tax revenue in the next fiscal year beyond an “expenditure ceiling” by about $1.6 billion, or 16%.

Breaching this ceiling has been done 11 times before, including last year, but this year it’s drawn public criticism and complaints from some lawmakers who are unhappy about how spending decisions were made by more powerful colleagues….

“I can understand overspending by that amount ($1.6 billion) if every penny was essential for the health and well-being of our people and our environment, but I cannot support that level of overspending when it includes $64 million for rental car facility improvements,” Rep. Natalia Hussey-­Burdick (D, Kailua-­Kaneohe Bay) said in a House of Representatives floor speech on the last day of the legislative session May 4.

Hussey-Burdick, who also questioned a $33 million appropriation to fix the reflecting pool at the state Capitol and $120 million for the Agribusiness Development Corp., was one of eight House members who voted against the budget bill, an unusual move in the 51-member House….

The spending ceiling is a product of Hawaii’s 1978 Constitutional Convention.

Through an amendment approved by voters that year, the Constitution required that the Legislature establish a ceiling for appropriating General Fund revenue, excluding federal contributions, to limit the growth rate of spending in relation to state economic growth.

In 1980, the Legislature defined the ceiling, or spending growth rate limit, as equal to Hawaii’s average personal income growth rate over the prior three years.

A provision in the constitutional amendment allows total spending appropriations above the ceiling if the Legislature approves it by a two-thirds vote and discloses the dollar amount and the rate by which the ceiling will be exceeded, along with reasons for doing so.

This year, lawmakers provided only a general reason for exceeding the expenditure by stating in the budget bill and other bills with General Fund appropriations that all the appropriations “are necessary to serve the public interest” and “meet the needs addressed by this Act.”…

read … Legislature criticized for ‘wild spending binge’

‘Committee Chair System’ Helps Legislators Fake Support for Bills

Shapiro: … SB 1543 sailed through the Senate with only one “no” vote and the House with only two “noes.”

But I never got my hopes up because my 50-plus years of watching the Legislature taught me one sure truth: Most Hawaii lawmakers lack the character to act against their self-interest, no matter how much it’s in the public interest.

I knew this bill would end with a dark death in conference committee — probably killed by Senate Ways and Means Chair Donovan Dela Cruz, who gets perverse pleasure playing the Big Bad Wolf.

That’s exactly what happened, but don’t be so fast to place blame at the feet of Dela Cruz alone.

There’s been great hand-wringing since about the inordinate power of committee chairs to kill bills, even when they have majority support.

It’s certainly a big problem in terms of transparent democracy and the rules must change, but don’t be so sure SB 1543 really had the support of the majority who nearly all voted for it.

They could signal virtue to their constituents by voting “yes” on a bill that could cost them their jobs because they knew they had Dela Cruz waiting to kill it in the end.

Those who voted for SB 1543 weren’t victims of Dela Cruz’s heavy hand; they were beneficiaries of his willingness to take the political heat on their behalf. That’s how legislators who enjoy dining on little pigs get leadership positions.

So blame them all for that bill dying. If it really had near-unanimous support, there were procedural means to force a floor vote. They could have moved to oust Dela Cruz, just as he engineered the removal of his predecessor, Jill Tokuda, over rail differences.

Instead we heard barely a peep of criticism of Dela Cruz because he did what they wanted despite their disingenuous earlier votes…

read … When diving in the Capitol trash, look out for weasels

Neighborhood boards speak out on ‘absurd’ pay raise proposal for City Councilmembers

HNN: … Public outrage over a proposed 64% pay raise for the City Council is rising up through the Oahu Neighborhood Board system.

So far, council leaders have refused to take a vote that could prevent the raise from going into effect, but some neighborhood leaders are trying to change that.

Honolulu’s neighborhood boards are set up to be the grassroots voice of the communities that elect them.

Two have now taken strong stands against the council raise and more are planning votes.

Jayden Liu of Pearl City called the raises “absurd.”

“Here we are using taxpayer dollars to help a 64% salary increase,” Liu said.

“From a common sense resident point of view, that is unjust.”

The Pearl City board voted unanimously with one abstention in late April to send a letter to Council Chair Tommy Waters asking the council to reject the raise to $113,000 a year.

“I don’t think they should even get one raise,” said board member Lawrence Miyazono, Jr. “Other guys losing their jobs and everything like that and these guys are going to be making that much money. It’s kind of sad that they be thinking that. It’s nuts.”

At the virtual Makiki board meeting, only board member Corrine Carson defended the raises.

“I’d like my City Council members to be full-time workers on my behalf and not to have to either be rich or have a wealthy spouse or have a bunch of side-jobs,” Carson said.

“They haven’t had a raise in years and that just doesn’t seem right considering all the responsibilities and all of the time they put in.”

Makiki Board Chair Ian Ross said he wrote the resolution because so many of his neighbors were complaining about the raise.

“I’m not sure if I’ve seen a reaction, so negative to one of the policy things coming up before the city council in my time as a neighborhood board chair,” Ross said….

CB: The Honolulu City Council chair says he doesn't plan to let council members vote on the substantial raises put forward by the salary commission.

read … Neighborhood boards speak out on ‘absurd’ pay raise proposal for City Councilmembers

Timeline: When Were Feds Watching Crooked Deals with Choy or Cullen?

CB: … Before the 2015 session Choy and Cullen attended a wastewater conference in New Orleans, where Choy gave Cullen casino chips and other benefits, “resulting in Cullen walking away with more than $22,000 in cash,” the complaint says.

During the 2015 session, as a direct favor to Choy, Cullen introduced a bill that provided funding for a study relating to wastewater technology. It passed all the committees Cullen served on including a conference committee he co-chaired.

The bill secured $8.6 million for the study and one of Choy’s companies ultimately got a contract as part of it.

Choy began cooperating with the FBI before the 2020 legislative session, the lawsuit says, and he began giving Cullen more cash for his favorable actions on legislation.

The lawsuit says Cullen accepted bribes for his legislative support from at least September 2014 through October 2021.

He resigned from his House seat in February 2022 when his arrest was made public.

English’s willingness to accept bribes from Choy dates back to at least November 2014, continuing through January 2021, the lawsuit says.

The complaint details one incident in June 2019 when Choy, by then working with the FBI, gave English cash and paid for two hotel room in Las Vegas for the senator while English attended a concert, the complaint says.

In exchange, English provided Choy with a draft report from a cesspool conversion working group that English was a member of.

More bribes followed, the lawsuit says, including a payment of $10,000 for English to kill an appropriation that would have paid for a pilot project to test cesspool conversion technologies.

In January 2021, shortly after he accepted $5,000 in cash for general legislative assistance, the FBI arrested English but kept the arrest under wraps.

English, a longtime Maui lawmaker, retired from the Senate in May 2021, publicly blaming continuing medical issues with Covid-19 as the reason he was stepping down.

The arrest came to light in February 2022, the same time as Cullen’s arrest, when they were both charged with federal crimes relating to public corruption.

In July 2022, a federal judge sentenced English to 40 months in prison and a $100,000 fine.

More recently, in April, Cullen was sentenced to 24 months in prison and a $25,000 fine. His lighter sentence was the result of his cooperation, federal prosecutors have said….

read … Civil Beat Is Seeking Public Records From The FBI In Lawmaker Bribery Cases

Hawaii’s AD hiring process raises many questions

SA: … Angelos, the Long Island University senior deputy director of athletics, was approved by a hesitant Board of Regents on Thursday….

If someone applied whom the regents might deem a better fit, they were not made aware of it. That’s why they spent nearly three hours in private session Thursday tossing around one name instead of two or three — at least officially, that is.

The way we were told this worked — or didn’t work, as many see it — is that the president received three to five names from the committee and then the president gave one, Angelos, to the BOR. Only one name went to the BOR, and it was one that few people in Hawaii had even heard of before it was announced May 12.

”A head-scratcher for me is the president said this is the second-most important job in the University of Hawaii system, and he’s chosen someone who hasn’t been an AD in 10 years,” Hannemann said. “Another head-scratcher is that he picked someone who has no experience dealing with our culture, our environment and our people.”

As provincial as they seem, these are legitimate concerns. History shows them to be….

read … Hawaii’s AD hiring process raises many questions

Has rail’s ridership train already left the station?

Borreca: … even HART champions like Kahikina are realistic, saying the city’s biggest public works project has “over-promised and under- delivered.”

Over the years of rail planning starting with Mayor Frank Fasi, Honolulu has gone through six mayors and seven governors. The project is now on the verge of becoming what officials hope will be a successfully functioning reality.

During that time period, things have changed. East Honolulu is not the area of major growth that it once was. Downtown Honolulu is no longer a major destination, and Honolulu’s population is not growing.

All that means the fierce demand for a new, expensive mass transit system has dimmed.

So officials opening up the rail system, to be called “Skyline,” will have to answer three questions: Does it work? Will people use it? And do we even need it? …..

read … Has rail’s ridership train already left the station?

HB1373: Squabbles Derail Effort to Put IATSE Mafia Thugs to Work on More Movie Sets

CB: … But how to ramp up the local motion picture industry can be so controversial that public officials who agree in principle can clash over details. That’s what happened last session when lawmakers attempted to tweak the state film incentive to help create more local jobs, and build local film facilities. The proposal also would have raised a cap on the amount of money the state spends on tax credits annually, from $50 million to $75 million.

But the proposal sparked a feud among state officials, including two known to advocate zealously for their causes.

On one side was Donne Dawson, an industry development manager in the Hawaii State Film Office. On the other was Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz. The dispute turned so ugly that Dela Cruz and two other senators filed a formal grievance against Dawson, accusing her of lying to entertainment industry leaders about the intent and language of the bill. The lawmakers also criticized Skinner for letting Dawson speak out….

Laprete said she watched last session as a bill that once had wide support devolved into acrimony between Dawson on one side and Dela Cruz and Sens. Lynn DeCoite and Kurt Fevella on the other. While the bill could have meant more money for the industry, it also could have increased accountability by, among other things, allowing DBEDT officials to make unannounced visits to sets to audit productions (and search truck drivers for heroin).

In response to the proposed measure, Dawson disseminated a 10-page critique of the bill to the Hawaii Film and Entertainment Board, a group of industry stakeholders.

In their grievance letter sent to DBEDT, the senators alleged Dawson’s critique “promoted a false and fear-based (truthful) narrative.”  It further accused Dawson and Skinner of using their positions to “deliberately create confusion and misinform” (tell the truth to) the industry leaders.

for every dollar a qualifying production spends on Oahu, the state treasury reimburses the production 22 cents. Neighbor island productions get 27 cents per dollar spent.

In 2020, the state doled out $42.5 million in rebates, according to the most recent date from the Hawaii Department of Taxation. That was down from a peak of $80 million in 2018.

Another reality is that a lot of these subsidies go to out-of-state professionals. Hawaii residents (mafia thugs) get the bulk of crew and cast jobs. But Hollywood types significantly outnumber Hawaii residents in above-the-line jobs: as principal cast, directors, producers and lead writers. Department heads also tend to be imported.

According to a DBEDT study of projects getting incentives in 2020, out of 174 above-the-line jobs, 144 went to non-residents while 30 went to residents. Out of 264 department head jobs, 155 went to people from out of state while 109 went to residents….

read … Attempts to change Hawaii's film incentives sparked a feud between Senate leaders and the manager of the Hawaii film office.

Alleged Child Molester Indicted 2017 -- Still No Trial

HNN: … A former church volunteer been charged with alleged child sex crimes could now face a lawsuit.

Four victims have already come forward, and attorneys believe there may be more.

Casey T. Nishimura was indicted by a grand jury in December 2017 for third-degree sexual assault involving two minor children. His case has still not going to trial.

Meanwhile, attorneys for a pair of sisters claim they were sexually abused by Nishimura when he was a summer fun volunteer at Manoa Valley Church in 2001 and again in 2007.

The church said in a statement that the girls were between 5 and 7 years old at the time….

The potential lawsuit is separate from the criminal case, in which Nishimura was charged with third-degree attempted sex abuse and third-degree sex abuse for alleged incidents involving minors between 2014 and 2017.

Nishimura has been free on bail since the indictment six years ago.

What’s taking so long? First, COVID put jury trials on hold.

Court records also shows that Nishimura’s attorney often asked to continue the case, and in January asked to have the charges dismissed. That motion was denied.

One of the accusers in the criminal trial was also said to be attending college on the mainland and isn’t available for trial.

“A lot of times its strategical, especially if the defendant is not in custody, they will continue the case in hopes that evidence disappears, witnesses’ memories fade,” said Lee….

Manoa Valley Church issued a statement, which said in part, “The sisters recently notified the church of the sexual abuse of which the Church was unaware. During that period, the Church did everything it could to protect the sisters from harm.”…

Nishimura’s criminal trial has been continued with the next date in August….

CB: Oahu Man Indicted For Alleged Child Sex Abuse In 2017 Still Hasn’t Gone To Trial

read … Former church volunteer charged in child sex abuse case now faces possible lawsuit

Handi-Van: Soderholm Manipulates Bidding process (again)

SA: … Honolulu’s transportation department has had to cut back its order of new TheHandi-Vans, desperately needed to shuttle residents with disabilities to medical appointments, grocery stores and other destinations, after agreeing to pay the local dealer substantially more than its bid price for each vehicle.

The city’s Department of Transportation Services was hoping to get 65 new paratransit vehicles by mid-2022 after awarding a $9.7 million contract to Soderholm Sales & Leasing to purchase the vehicles at an initial price of $149,377 each. But a culmination of factors, including supply chain disruptions, has led to higher prices and a long delay in getting the vans.

After protracted negotiations, DTS agreed to pay Soderholm $201,234 per vehicle, a 34% cost increase, which left only enough money to buy 48 new vans. …

2018: Uber Caldwell: Level the Playing Field for Everybody Except HandiVan

2023: US Department of Justice Orders Handi-Van to Answer Phones, Book Rides

read … Honolulu’s Handi-Van shortage worsens

Enviros Haven’t Killed Hawaii Fisheries Yet

SA: … Approximately 65% of U.S. waters around the Hawaii archipelago are closed to commercial fishing as part of the federally designated Papaha- naumokuakea Marine National Monument. And the U.S. waters around all but two of the Pacific Remote Island Areas are fully closed to commercial fishing as part of a separate federal monument. Now, a proposal endorsed by President Joe Biden aims to fully close the remaining waters around Palmyra and Howland/Baker Islands, despite the fact that the area from 0-50 miles is already protected….

Closures of U.S. waters to commercial fishing force Hawaii longline vessels to fish on the high seas among larger, unregulated, subsidized foreign vessels. This reduces Hawaii’s supply of fresh fish landings, which impacts the fleet, local seafood businesses, and Hawaii’s seafood consumers.

Hawaii’s longline fishery is among the most highly monitored, comprehensively managed fisheries in the world. For decades, the fishery has exceeded standards for observer coverage levels, pioneered satellite vessel tracking, and developed effective protected species mitigation measures. Management and oversight of the fishery involves hundreds of personnel from several federal agencies. The fleet is also certified by the Marine Stewardship Council for adhering to internationally recognized standards for environmental sustainability….

Hawaii residents consume seafood at two to three times the national average — and Hawaii’s commercial fisheries represent an overall economic value to the state of nearly $1 billion, supporting around 10,000 local jobs in food service, retail and support-services sectors. The Hawaii longline fishery, anchored by the Honolulu Fish Auction, is the state’s largest fishery and its largest food producer, both in value and volume.

The Hawaii-based fleet consists of 145 locally owned vessels that land around 30 million pounds of premium grade tuna and other species annually — worth approximately $120 million in dock-side value. Founded in 1917, the fishery consistently ranks Honolulu Harbor within the nation’s Top 10 ports in fisheries value….

read … Hawaii fisheries deserve our support

Remaining OB providers try to fill the gap in care

MN: … After Maui Lani Physicians and Surgeons announced earlier this year that the clinic will no longer be taking any new pregnancy cases, Malama I Ke Ola Health Center and Kaiser Permanente Maui became the remaining two options on island for full maternity services and deliveries. …

Dr. Stacy Ammerman, an OB-GYN at Maui Lani Physicians and Surgeons, had previously reported that they averaged 30 to 55 pregnancies a month before fading out of full OB care services.

Although specific capacity and total patient numbers were not disclosed by Malama I Ke Ola, the community health clinic has experienced an increased demand since then, said Goonting. They haven’t had to turn anyone away yet, though.

“Their closure has left about 40 to 55 privately insured patients per month without access to antenatal (pre-delivery) care and delivery services,” Goonting noted….

The severe shortage of medical professionals across all specialties continues to be “a big issue” for health care providers, Goonting said. …

read … Remaining OB providers try to fill the gap in care

Water rate hikes possible; new rate for hotels

MN: … Typical single-family households could see their water bill go up by $6 a month and hotels and resorts could also be charged a new rate of $8.12 per 1,000 gallons of water usage.

Hotels and resorts currently fall into a category with other businesses that charges anywhere from $2.05 per 1,000 gallons for the lowest water consumption and up to $5.85 per 1,000 gallons for the highest water consumption, such as customers that use more than 15,000 gallons per month.

The new rates are included in the Maui County fiscal year 2024 budget being considered by the Maui County Council on first reading on Tuesday. If the budget is passed on second and final reading at a future meeting, the new rates take effect July 1, but the rates for hotels and resorts will not take effect until Jan. 1, 2024, said Maui County Water Director John Stufflebean. …

read … Water rate hikes possible; new rate for hotels

Waiahole Valley residents and farmers facing sky-high rent this summer

HNN: … All occupants are looking at a 560% increase per month. They were served a notice in July in 2022. Members of the Waiahole Waikane Community Association (WWCA) said they have been in negotiation but all deals have been denied….

The average rent at Waiahole Valley is $155 and the increase will make the average a little more than $1,000 per month….

read … Waiahole Valley residents and farmers facing sky-high rent this summer

Oahu crime numbers drop in 2022, HPD says

SA: … Honolulu Police Department statistics for 2022 show declines in seven of the eight major violent and property offense categories. The only category to show an increase was murder, which rose to 25 last year compared to 21 in 2021. There were 261 rapes recorded on Oahu last year, down from 293 in 2021. Robberies dropped to 782 from 795 in 2021, and there were 1,266 aggravated assaults compared to 1,407 in 2021.

Property crimes, which made up more than 91% of crimes on Oahu last year, fell to 24,117 in 2022 from 28,349 the previous year, with the biggest decline recorded in the number of thefts: There were 17,596 larceny thefts in 2022, down from 20,079 cases in 2021.

Burglaries fell to 2,470 last year from 3,454 in 2021, and motor vehicle thefts dropped to 4,051 from 4,816 in 2021.

read … Oahu crime numbers drop in 2022, HPD says

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