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Tuesday, May 23, 2023
May 23, 2023 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:15 PM :: 2021 Views

Flags Lowered for Late Senator Sam Slom

Slush Fund News: HTA Gives $27M Contract to CNHA

Public invited to observe 72nd Mayor’s Memorial Day Ceremony

Green Touts 'Progress' in First Six Months

'Renewable' Gravy Train End of Line: After Decades, HECO Dumps 'Avoided Cost' Contracts

Let’s Be Real: Hawaii Legislators Can Pretty Much Serve As Long As They Want

CB: … “We already have term limits,” say opponents. “They’re called elections.”

House Judiciary Chair David Tarnas took the argument a step further when he derailed a term limits proposal last session by pointing to a League of Women Voters analysis stating 56% of Senate seats and 65% of House seats had turned over since 2012.

“At least for the past ten years, voters have already succeeded in limiting the terms of most legislators,” concluded the league’s Janet Mason in written testimony on House Bill 796.

Tarnas liked the league’s testimony so much that he read it aloud right before axing the bill without a committee vote.

There was one problem: While the league’s statistical analysis of total turnover may have been spot-on, its conclusion was not.

Starting with the same data used by the league, Civil Beat’s team of UH student interns went deeper into the reasons for departures of 72 state lawmakers since 2012. Losing reelection bids accounted for only 26 of those exits — 36.1%.

Another 26 legislators left to take or at least seek other offices, 15 retired, three resigned and two died.

So yes, there’s been a decent amount of turnover in the Legislature over the past decade, but a big majority of those departing were not shown the door by voters….

Six legislative incumbents were ousted last year, although two of those lost to other sitting legislators as a result of the reapportionment of legislative districts that occurs once every 10 years.

It happened only twice in 2020 and once in 2018. The last sizable voter-imposed exodus was in 2012 when nine incumbents lost — but that was another reapportionment year and again some of them were defeated by fellow incumbents instead of newcomers.

The fact is, Hawaii legislators can pretty much serve as long as they want.

Over the past decade, an average of 90% of incumbents were reelected during each election cycle, wrote Colin Moore in a report released in February for the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization….

read … Let’s Be Real: Hawaii Legislators Can Pretty Much Serve As Long As They Want

$27.1M Payout to CNHA ‘Uncomfortably Irregular’

SA: … $27.1 million to the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement to handle “destination management” — keeping the use of tourism hot spots under control and in balance with the community….

Repeated false starts over this very procurement process had soured relations with some key lawmakers to begin with, and it’s not a safe bet whether, even now, everything will go smoothly….

HTA will have to run the gauntlet in an odd five-point system of oversight to cobble together an operating budget. Expenditures for the authority will go through a “checks and balances” approvals process with consent from James Tokioka, interim director of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism; legislative leadership, the state budget and finance director; and both the governor and lieutenant governor.

How exactly this will work is still wreathed in fog. Who’s in charge, if anyone? And even if looping in legislative leaders is seen as a conciliatory gesture, giving a direct decision-making role to a select few outside the bounds of the legislative session is uncomfortably irregular….

In the rushed and confused final days of the Legislature, HTA emerged intact only because there was no agreement on its future, and no budget for its operation.

Last year, then-Gov. David Ige had set aside $30 million for HTA in unspent American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. Ige siphoned off this money to keep HTA afloat because he had vetoed a late “gut and replace” bill to fund it; lawmakers had passed the bill using a political maneuver struck down by the state Supreme Court.

This year’s budgeting irregularities don’t end there, unfortunately. HTA is one of many agencies angling for some portion of the $200 million in unappropriated funds the Legislature left for discretionary spending by Gov. Josh Green…. 

HPR: CNHA: $27.1M helps to reconcile culture and commerce

SA: “This is about driving visitor spending to drive taxes and employment and I don’t see how putting almost half of the money into the destination of Hawaii within Hawaii is a logical split.”

read … To succeed, HTA must build trust

Dos Santos-Tam Scores Swiss Junket amid criticism

SA: … In February, Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, which represents Swiss interests abroad, invited and then provided Council member Tyler Dos Santos-Tam approximately $6,487 to fly to Zurich to study that city’s integrated public transit system and discuss public transportation policies with Swiss policymakers, the city said.

Under a resolution formally accepting that gift, the City Council voted unanimously May 17 to allow Dos Santos-Tam, who chairs the panel’s Committee on Transportation, to travel with a 14-member delegation composed of federal and local transportation officials, most of whom are based in the San Francisco Bay Area. That delegation leaves San Francisco for Zurich on Sunday and returns to San Francisco on June 3….

Although no one from the public spoke at the Council meeting on this item, some objected in writing to Dos Santos-Tam’s paid trip to a foreign country.

“I oppose the acceptance of this ‘gift’,” said Takashi Yanagishita in written testimony. “Travel to a foreign country is never all- expenses paid. The taxpayers of Oahu will end up footing some of the bill for this, and what will we get in return? Higher property taxes to help pay for this trip and your 64% raise? The taxpayers are not your personal bank account.”

Dylan Armstrong also questioned giving a free trip to a local elected official.

“I am not opposed to any and all travel junkets for educational purposes. Professional travel as it relates to urban planning and public transport can be useful. However, this instance raises questions about what the public receives as (a) benefit,” Armstrong wrote.

Armstrong said this visit also calls into the question the use of the public’s time by Honolulu’s elected officials and its appointees.

“In short, what I am opposed to is the worst of crony capitalism. I am opposed to relatively high benefits for public officials out of what the same officials consider scarce resources, in providing scanty, mediocre results for the public,” Armstrong wrote. “Former Mayor Frank Fasi, at his most controversial, always made clear his support for equitable public transport. He didn’t need to fly to Bern, Zurich, Geneva or Basel, to learn what the unwashed proletariat needs. He bought buses and transported them here. He supported a light rail system when it was a losing battle. The city instead is currently operating in a 1960s paradigm, eliminating routes, eliminating crosswalks, and doing nothing consequential or intelligent to stop the egregious casualty rate for pedestrians.”

read … Dos Santos-Tam to visit Swiss rail amid criticism

$253M in affordable housing funding to lapse, Honolulu officials say

SA: … “We will lapse CIP affordable housing appropriations; the exact amount (is) unknown at this time,” Managing Director Michael Formby told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser via email. “We have projects in due diligence and whether we can encumber funds by June 30, 2023, subject to appropriations and their budget provisos, remains to be seen.”

According to the CIP budget as adopted in 2021, the original housing appropriations were additions made by a prior City Council. They cover the following project titles and descriptions:

>> $18 million for the Community Revitalization Initiative: Funds for the acquisition, easement, development, and/or renovation of facilities for urban rest stops, navigation centers, workforce/affordable housing, and other community-focused projects.

>> $20 million to Acquire Homeless Service Facilities: To acquire land, plan, design, construct, and provide funds for miscellaneous costs for homeless facilities providing housing, hygiene and other related services.

>>$170 million for Affordable Housing: To acquire land, plan, design, construct and provide funds for other miscellaneous costs for the development of low-income affordable housing and any necessary and related infrastructure improvements.

>> $35 million for Affordable Housing with a Preference for Transit Oriented Development, or TOD, Areas: Acquire land, plan, design, construct, and provide funds for other miscellaneous costs for the development of low-income affordable housing, and any necessary and related infrastructure improvements, with preference to housing in neighborhood transit-oriented development plan areas.

>> $10 million for Affordable Housing within the Koolauloa Region: Acquire land, plan, design, construct, and provide funds for other miscellaneous costs for the development of low-income affordable housing and any necessary and related infrastructure improvements within the Koolauloa region.

Formby: City careful about its housing debt obligations

read … $253M in affordable housing funding to lapse, Honolulu officials say

Honolulu reports 500% increase in suicide attempts, especially among youth

HNN: … Honolulu EMS is now responding to between 10 and 15 suicide attempts a day amid an alarming uptick that health officials say they’re watching closely.

Experts say youth and young adults are among those most at risk.

It’s a trend the Prevent Suicide Hawaii Task Force is taking seriously. Officials there say Hawaii’s young people are the most likely to try and kill themselves by suicide, specifically between the ages 10 and 24.

And over the past three months, Honolulu EMS has seen a dramatic increase in calls for self-harm and suicide attempts. “Pre-pandemic we might go on a couple of calls a day where people tried to hurt themselves or intentionally overdose. Now, it’s 10. Sometimes 15 a day,” said Honolulu EMS Director Jim Ireland.

In the 20 minutes it took to do an interview with Ireland last Monday, ambulances were dispatched to two different attempted suicides: a man and a young woman. He confirms both tried to overdose on drugs.

Ireland says in addition to attempted suicides, the number of people who’ve taken their own lives is also on the rise.

“Not just taking pills or overdoses, but also people trying to hurt themselves in other ways. Traumatic injuries including the use of firearms, knives and other trauma,” he said. “It’s increasing and it’s concerning.”…

read … Honolulu reports alarming increase in suicide attempts, especially among youth

Tokai Professor Busted in Child Sex Sting

KITV: … Brent Gaston is the latest man to be caught during an online child trafficking sting after allegedly making arrangements to meet with children younger than 12 years old.

He thought he was talking to a parent willing to traffic young children but little did he know, he was talking to an officer specialized in child exploitation….

Gaston was arrested and taken to the FBI office in Kapolei on May 18. He had been talking to an undercover agent for a few days and they agreed to meet. Gaston thought he was going to be greeted with a boy and girl, ages 9 and 11, but instead he saw men in blue.

Gaston is still in custody and is expected to be seen again in court on May 24….

SA: Man allegedly tried to lure boy and girl into sex

read … Oahu man Brent Gaston arrested for online child trafficking bust 

Sovereignty Hitman found guilty of threatening to kill Waianae harbor master to be sentenced

HNN: … Sentencing is set for 9 a.m. in federal court. Kinney faces up to 10 years in prison.

Kinney is also a key witness in the case against accused crime boss Mike Miske after allegedly turning down Miske’s request to kill Johnathan Fraser in 2016 — then months later Fraser vanished….

2023: Miske Witness Guilty --Threatened to 'Behead' Governor, Mayor

read … Man found guilty of threatening to kill Oahu harbor master to be sentenced

Guam braces for ‘extensive damage’ from Typhoon Mawar

HNN: … It’s expected to arrive as a “high-end” Category 3 storm, possibly reaching “low-end” Category 4, he said. Sustained winds were at 105 mph (169 kmh), gusting up to 124 mph (200 kmh), he said.

The typhoon could cause “extensive damage,” he said.

The governor said she would place Guam essentially in a lockdown effective 1 p.m. Tuesday. “Unless you’re a first responder, you do not leave your house,” Doll said….

WC: Super Typhoon Mawar Could Be Guam's Strongest In At Least 20 Years With Destructive Storm Surge, Winds, Flooding Rain

read … Guam braces for ‘extensive damage’ from Typhoon Mawar

COVID outbreak at Hilo nursing home includes 93 cases, 1 death

SA: … A recent COVID-19 outbreak at a Hilo nursing home has resulted in 93 cases and one death, according to the state Department of Health.

The state Health Department confirmed it was notified in early April of the outbreak at Life Care Center of Hilo, and has been providing technical assistance to the facility.

As of Monday, the facility had reported 93 cases, including 76 residents and 17 staff. One resident who tested positive for COVID-19 died after being transferred to the hospital, according to DOH….

2020 Okutsu: Another death brings the facility’s resident death toll to 24.

read … COVID outbreak at Hilo nursing home includes 93 cases, 1 death

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