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Thursday, June 1, 2023
June 1, 2023 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:28 PM :: 3014 Views

Abercrombie News: Green Appoints Three UH Regents

Hawaii visitor spending up as tourism continues to recover from the pandemic

‘Empty homes’ tax won’t fix supply-side housing crisis

Blangiardi and Team Hanabusa Conspire to Build More Rail Stations

SA: … Mayor Rick Blangiardi and Kahikina already are planning to add another station farther west of Kapolei and all the way to the original end of the line at Ala Moana Center, Hawaii’s largest transit hub that’s intended to get rail passengers to Waikiki and the University of Hawaii and other popular destinations via bus….

Kahikina and Blangiardi hope the experience of seeing Oahu from an elevated point of view and the convenience and comfort of riding trains traveling at 45 mph — without the hassle of vehicle traffic — will encourage the public and decision-makers to support expanding rail even farther….

HART is scheduled to turn over the first leg of the system to the city’s Department of Transportation Services at a ceremony in Blangiardi’s office in Honolulu Hale on June 9…. 

HNN: Hoping to take the rail line to Kapolei’s bustling shopping mall? You’re out of luck

KITV: ‘Exciting': tested, repaired rail ready for long-awaited launch

read … Oahu rail system is ‘ready to go’ June 30

HB999 Gut n Replace: How A Few Hawaii Senators Get Rid Of An Agency Board Member Who Was In The Way

CB: … Vassilis Syrmos’ position as a director of the quasi-independent Hawaii Technology Development Corp. was supposed to be free from politics.

But that didn’t stop a clique of lawmakers led by Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz from mounting a secretive, 11th-hour campaign to get rid of Syrmos, a University of Hawaii vice president who has openly questioned a project in Dela Cruz’s district.

Now, all that’s standing in the way of Syrmos’ termination is Gov. Josh Green’s veto power.

Green declined to comment when asked whether he would veto House Bill 999, which Dela Cruz and his political allies transformed from a simple appropriations measure into a tool to remove Syrmos — with no explanation or chance for public testimony. But the governor said he opposes bills targeting particular people.

“I will have a fundamental problem with any bill that targets a specific individual,” Green said in a statement. “Bills that target specific individuals would seem cruel and unethical.”

The Legislature’s passage of House Bill 999 shows how lawmakers can exert pressure, even on agencies that are set up to be independent. It also represents an example of the strong-arming some have accused Dela Cruz and fellow Sen. Michelle Kidani of engaging in this session. Joining Dela Cruz in the last minute machinations to remove Syrmos were Dela Cruz’s fellow Ways and Means Committee members: Kidani and Sens. Lynn DeCoite and Glenn Wakai.

The bill was sent to conference committee for the House and Senate to work out differences. But Saiki killed the measure by dismissing the House conferees assigned to work on it.

In an interview, Saiki explained he sent the conferees home because it wasn’t clear why the senators had added the provision: there was no discussion or debate explaining the change, much less supporting it.

“The rationale for making the change was not clear,” he said.

The Hawaii Technology Development Corp. this week posted a job listing for a new executive director. The position will be key to the support of a controversial first responders park in central Oahu. (Screenshot/HTDC/2023)

Dela Cruz took no chances with House Bill 999. When the bill reached the Ways and Means Committee, Dela Cruz and his colleagues merely tweaked proposed funding for programs. There was no mention of axing Syrmos.

But when the measure went to conference committee, Dela Cruz made his move.

Assigned to the Senate conference committee were Dela Cruz’s Ways and Means colleagues: Kidani and DeCoite as co-chairs and Wakai as a member, the bill’s status sheet shows.

But as the vote on a conference draft approached on April 28, Dela Cruz tag-teamed Kidani, replacing her as co-chair, the status sheet shows. Then, before the final vote, Kidani and Dela Cruz switched places again.

The Senate priority was getting rid of Syrmos, not funding economic development initiatives through the HTDC, says Rep. Daniel Holt, chairman of of the House Economic Development Committee who was co-chair of the conference committee for the House.

By the April 28 conference committee meeting, funding for economic development programs had been reduced by $6 million.

“In the conference committee I was told if I wanted the $6 million appropriation, I had to include that language” effectively firing Syrmos, Holt said. “I do not like the provision, but I was put in a position: I needed to save those programs.”…

read … How A Few Hawaii Senators Conspired To Get Rid Of An Agency Board Member Who Was In The Way

After trailer Fire, Fevella calls for audit of Hawaii film office -- Studios Not Hiring Enough Local Mafia

HNN: …  Movie industry union leaders have long complained that even though state taxpayers are helping finance the big studio movies, they aren’t doing enough to hire local.

Kevin Holu, president of the Hawaii Teamsters Local 996, was among several union leaders who joined state Sen. Kurt Fevella for a news conference at the state Capitol Wednesday.

“Our guys are not getting privy to work on these sets,” Holu said.

“They are locally here and unfortunately, with them being cost out of paradise, it really affects our members and their families here in Hawaii.”

Fevella promoted legislation this year that would have limited tax credits to productions that agreed to meet a number of transparency and hiring requirements for more local labor….

Others in the industry have said that another way to grow local jobs is to encourage development of film studios and support facilities. One site suggested has been near the University of Hawaii West Oahu.

Fevella said he opposes mainland companies managing those facilities. “When you wanna bring in mainland companies to manage our studios you’re darn right I have a problem,” Fevella said.

“Everything should be local. It’s our land, it’s our place, it’s our people.”

Among Fevella’s proposals is a state film commission that would oversee the film office and put union leaders at the table with the studios….

REALITY: Miske Mob Were All Union Drivers on Set of Hawaii 5-0 

REALITY: ‘Reeks of organized crime’: ‘Lilo and Stitch’ set fire reopens old industry wounds

read … Lawmaker calls for audit of Hawaii film office amid local hiring feud

Cock Fighting and Game Rooms: Informant Booted from meeting after naming names

SA: … A public meeting to address illegal game rooms and cockfighting on Oahu’s west side on Wednesday was marked by emotional public input, allegations of public corruption and pleas to end the proliferation of guns in the community….

During the public comment period, Sabrina Grace-Dereis stood up and stated that she was an informant and wore a wire for the U.S. Department of Justice during the late ’80s and early ’90s during efforts to shut down cockfights and illegal gambling.

She shared a binder with Alm, Tupola and Lambert that contained photos and documentation she said were of businesses and people involved in organized drug and gambling operations. She alleged elected officials had family members involved and named three Honolulu police officers she accused of taking money from organized crime. Her comments could not be immediately verified.

“It’s a shame,” said Grace-Dereis, amid a contentious back and forth.

As she left the event, Council staff told her to calm down and that she had to go….

SA Editorial: West Side safety should be priority

read … Public outcry over crime heard in Maili meeting

Trial delayed again for ex-Honolulu officials as Miske Lawyer Seeks Wheat’s Deportation from Hawaii

HNN: … The conspiracy trial for the former Honolulu employees who orchestrated the payoff of disgraced ex-Police Chief Louis Kealoha could be pushed back until next spring.

The federal judge is considering several motions filed by the defense team of former city attorney Donna Leong, former city managing director Roy Amemiya and former police commission chair Max Sword.

Trial for the group was supposed to start June 26 and last four weeks.

Instead, it might not start until April because of conflicts with the court calendar and other attorneys’ schedules.

Among the issues U.S. District Court Judge Leslie Kobayashi is considering is a motion by Leong’s attorney, Thomas Otake, to get special prosecutor Michael Wheat booted from the case for alleged conflicts.

This follows a failed attempt by Wheat to get Otake removed ― also for alleged conflicts….

The defense also said Wheat misled the grand jury and delayed the prosecution until a key witness for the defense died. That’s an argument the government denied.

Otake told the court he also wanted to call Wheat to the stand to answer questions about a phone call between him, FBI agents and Leong. Otake called that a “set up” and a “ruse” to get her in trouble.

Additionally, the defense team is trying to get the case thrown out by arguing city administrators had the authority to give a $250,000 retirement package to Kealoha as a way to get him to retire. The government alleges the trio bypassed council approval, which would be required in a settlement deal funded by taxpayers….

read … Trial delayed again for ex-Honolulu officials accused in conspiracy case

Neighborhood board group against 64% Council raises

SA: … A small (gigantic) group connected to the city’s network of volunteer neighborhood boards has issued a call to sister boards across Oahu to voice opposition to 64% pay hikes that Honolulu City Council members are expected to receive by July 1.

Lori Yamada, the retiring chair of the Kaimuki Neighborhood Board, helped draft a resolution to counter the Salary Commission’s April 25 recommendation that an individual Council member’s salary get a 64.4% pay boost to $113,304, up from $68,904, while the Council chair’s salary would rise to $123,288 from $76,968, a 60.2% jump.

Yamada hopes other neighborhood boards heed her group’s call to reject the Council pay hikes…. 

KHON: Councilmembers not on board with Tulba, Tupola’s rejection of pay increases

SA Editorial: Block pay raises for City Council

read … Neighborhood board group against 64% Council raises

Honolulu Council Pretends to Look at lower property taxes for some homeowners

KITV: … Currently the city has a program that caps property tax rates at 3% of income, if you make $60,000, or less. Few homeowners take part in the program, so some Honolulu City Council members want to expand the program and allow more homeowners to save.

"We only have 3,500 folks taking advantage of that program. We want to bump that number up. We are debating on whether to raise the level to $70,000, $75,000 or $80,000 annual income to qualify. We are trying to help those who need the help the most: those on limited income," said Honolulu City Council Chair Tommy Waters….

Another idea being proposed would increase homeowner's standard deduction.

"Bill 40 increases your homeowners exemption from $100,000 to $110,000 or possibly even $120,000, for kupuna it could go from $140,000 maybe up to $160,000," added Waters.

Another way to help homeowners save would amend the residential A classification. It would help those who rent out their property long term to others - by lowering their taxes.

Council members are also looking at expanding the mayor's purposed $300 tax credit….

read … Honolulu City Council looks to lower property taxes for some homeowners 

Navy wants to remove 3 pipelines at Red Hill fuel facility

SA: … The Navy announced Wednesday it wants to dismantle the pipelines connecting the massive fuel tanks at its underground Red Hill facility to Pearl Harbor.

The Navy submitted a supplement to the state Department of Health for the under-review Red Hill Tank Closure Plan that calls for the three pipelines to be removed as part of a three-year closure plan that will take place after the defueling of the tanks — a process the military now says is set to conclude in January….

HNN: Emergency repair planned to prevent ‘worst-case scenario’ during defueling, Navy says

read … Navy wants to remove 3 pipelines at Red Hill fuel facility

Kaua‘i County Council passes resolution supporting public access of Coco Palms lands

TGI: … The Kaua‘i County Council approved in a 4-2 vote on Wednesday a resolution urging the state Board of Land and Natural Resources to prioritize public access for disputed land surrounding the derelict Coco Palms Resort after nearly failing to come to a decision for the second time in two weeks.

Deferred from a May 10 council meeting, the resolution focuses on three parcels of board-owned land in Wailua totaling nearly 16 acres and including the island’s century-old coconut grove.

The land has recently become a point of contention in the property’s future, as board Chair Dawn Chang told the council earlier this month that she had received several allegations of land use violations by Utah-based leasee RP21 Coco Palms LLC, including failure to maintain the premises, failure to submit annual reports, failure to pay property taxes and cutting down palm trees without consent.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources is conducting an investigation into these claims, after which they will have the discretion to revoke the leases.

Further complicating the matter, the county council floated on May 10 the possibility of acquiring the LLC-owned lands — which house most of the major structures — either by outright purchasing the property or through condemnation and eminent domain. If the DLNR chooses to revoke Coco Palms LLC’s leases, the property’s valuation would likely be significantly reduced….

read … Kaua‘i County Council passes resolution supporting public access of Coco Palms lands

Legislative Agenda:  

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