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Thursday, July 6, 2023
July 6, 2023 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:48 PM :: 1088 Views

Hawaii income tax burden second highest in nation

Chief Justice Seeks Public Comment on Oahu Judicial Nominees

Animal Welfare Groups Urge Ninth Circuit to Affirm the Ban on Cockfighting in the Northern Mariana Islands

Amber Jackson Murder Case Reopened 13 years later

New Florida law affects 'limited purpose' Hawaii driver's licenses

Honolulu Council panel to hold real property tax relief meeting

SA: … Honolulu City Council will hold a special meeting Friday regarding real property tax relief for residents.

This latest special Council meeting — only days ahead of the panel’s regularly scheduled meeting July 12 — follows a hearing in early June involving the Council subcommittee tasked with providing relief to property owners affected by the approximately 10% or greater increase in real property tax assessments on Oahu.

Over seven meetings that reportedly ran between May 1 and May 31, the Council’s Permitted Interaction Group, or PIG — comprised of Chair Tommy Waters, Vice Chair Esther Kia‘aina, Radiant Cordero and Matt Weyer — offered options taken from a slew of potential real property tax bills addressing such things as long-term rental classifications or exemptions, modification to real property tax credits, and homeowner exemptions and amendments to real property tax rate classifications, among others.

Out of this effort, the subcommittee on Friday is expected to review a report of its findings, likely for full Council discussion.

Meanwhile, at the same meeting, the full Council also is expected to preside over the third and final readings for two measures introduced in 2022: Bills 37 and 40.

As drafted, Bill 37 — targeted toward low-income earners — would increase the income eligibility threshold from $60,000 to $80,000 toward a real property tax credit. The measure would allow those eligible to see their tax capped at 3% of their income.

Likewise, Bill 40 would increase the homeowners exemption from $100,000 to $120,000 and raise the senior exemption from $140,000 to $160,000…. 

GRIH: Bill 37, CD1: Increase income eligibility for property tax credit

GRIH: Bill 40, CD1: Increase in homeowner exemption overdue

read … Honolulu Council panel to hold real property tax relief meeting

Hawaii vacation rentals were less than 54% occupied during May

PBN: … According to the monthly Hawaii Vacation Rental Performance Report, occupancy, supply and demand all dropped compared to May 2019, but average daily rate was up….

TGI: Domestic passenger count tops 80,000 in June at Lihu‘e Airport

MN:  For the second month in a row, visitor arrivals slowed

read … Hawaii vacation rentals were less than 54% occupied during May

How Many will Ride Rail to Work Each Day? 

SA: … More than 71,000 passengers boarded the city’s new Skyline rail system over the initial five days of free rides — with the first full day of paid rides expected to provide the first real indication of how much interest people have in riding rail’s initial 11 miles….

The initial segment of 11 miles of track and nine stations from East Kapolei to Halawa opened Friday with 8,942 passengers riding a truncated, four hours of service….

The numbers of initial passengers grew to 14,216 over the first full weekend day of service Saturday, then peaked Sunday with 17,500 riders.

The number of passengers dropped to 12,946 on Monday before spiking to 18,108 on the Fourth of July, according to the city….

DTS forecasts that 8,000 to 10,000 riders on average will ride Skyline per day….

SA: Affordable housing near Halawa rail station begins construction

CB: Enough Talk Already. Start Liking Rail so we can Con You into Building More

read … Over 71,000 passengers ride Skyline in first 5, free days

Back to the Future: New 13-Hour Shifts For HPD Patrol Officers Are Raising Concerns

CB: … The Honolulu Police Department plans to move patrol division personnel to 13-hour shifts starting in August.

But HPD ended a similar 12-hour schedule that was in place between 2000 and 2006 over department concerns that fatigued officers posed a safety threat to themselves and to the public, an issue that continues to be debated and studied.

In 2006, then-Chief Boisse Correa noted officers were fatigued after 10 or 12 hour shifts, and the shifts contributed to at least one officer-involved car accident, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported.

That schedule was a rotating 12-hour patrol shift that squeezed 40 hours into three days. Now the department plans to roster patrol officers on 13-hour shifts over three consecutive days….

read … New 13-Hour Shifts For HPD Patrol Officers Are Raising Concerns

Honolulu police officer allegedly flees arrest

HNN: … The search has ended Wednesday for a Honolulu police officer who allegedly fled his arrest for restraining order violations.

Officer Ernest Siosi Aliksa was arrested around 9 p.m., HPD arrest logs show.

The 41-year-old is accused of driving off from officers who were trying to arrest him Tuesday for violating a restraining order, multiple sources told Hawaii News Now.

Aliksa was out on bail, awaiting trials in three separate criminal cases that cover 18 counts of violating the TRO back in March and April.

The new allegations stem from recent messages sent to the woman who filed the TRO, an ex-girlfriend.

“He’s had his police powers taken away so he shouldn’t have any firearms,” said retired HPD Deputy Chief John McCarthy, who added there is still a danger given the alleged behavior

Sources tell Hawaii News Now that an all-points bulletin or alert was sent out to some in HPD for Aliksa’s vehicle….….

KITV:  Honolulu Police officer arrested for repeated TRO violations

read … Authorities end search for Honolulu police officer who allegedly fled arrest

Five Years Later: Former Hawai‘i Youth Challenge Academy cadre found guilty on 9 charges of sexual assault

BIN: … A Puna man is facing up to 10 years in prison or five years probation after a Hilo jury found the former Hawai‘i Youth Challenge Academy cadre guilty of nine sexual assault offenses.

Indicted in May 2018, the jury returned the verdict on 42-year-old Paul Banashihan, Jr. on June 30. He was not in custody during the trial.

The academy, part of the state’s National Guard Youth Challenge Program, is a community-based program that leads, trains and mentors 16- to 18-year-old high school dropouts so that they may become productive citizens. Banashihan was employed as a cadre at the time the offenses occurred in April 2018.

Banashihan was found guilty on three counts of second-degree sexual assault, two counts of second-degree attempted sexual assault and four counts of fourth-degree sexual assault.

The charges of second-degree sexual assault and second-degree attempted sexual assault carry a penalty of either up to 10 years in prison or five years probation and up to 18 months in jail. Fourth-degree sexual assault is a misdemeanor and carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail.

On July 3, a 3rd Circuit Court judge granted Hawai‘i County prosecutors’ request to take Banashihan into custody and be held without bail pending determination of an extended-term hearing. Prosecutors previously provided notice of an intent to seek an extended term. The next court hearing is scheduled on July 13.

read … Former Hawai‘i Youth Challenge Academy cadre found guilty on 9 charges of sexual assault

"Defeated, frustrated, scared." Kahala parents of special needs boy take frustrations with DOE to the courts

KITV: … Summer says Keala spent two-and-a-half years at their home school, Kahala Elementary, but made no progress. "They seemingly didn't know what to do with him," she says, ticking off a list of what she terms failures, topped by the "denial of Extended School Year. Keala was given ESY but extremely minimally. For spring break, he might get one day during the break."

Not only does the lack of learning consistency cause autistic students like Keala to regress, but "it falls on the parents to just not work during those times and figure out something to do with him, in a world that's not designed for him," explains Summer, who has another son who is also autistic, though "high-functioning."

She and husband Corey say they asked repeatedly for services, only to be denied. They finally hired a lawyer….

"He spent two-and-a-half years [at Kahala Elementary] - though a lot of that was COVID time - with little to no progress," sums Summer.

Eric Seitz is Rothwells' attorney. "We have a federal law that provides services to children who have disabilities. Unfortunately, the DOE is not sympathetic to those kids and the rights they have," he says.

They won their lawsuit in September 2022, and the DOE transferred Keala to Liholiho Elementary last school year. He transferred in after fall break, so he started in October 2022.

"It was a completely different experience when we went to Liholiho. We would ask for something, additional support, and they'd add it to his plan. It was easy," she recalls. "We were met with compassion, understanding, and motivation to help our child."

The Rothwells and Seitz were surprised when, this spring, the DOE informed them Keala will go back to Kahala Elementary in August. The settlement indicated the boy would be "reevaluated" and since he was thriving, they thought he would get to stay….

KITV: Honolulu attorney tells KITV4, he's a few weeks away from filing a class action lawsuit against the state over special education services.

read … "Defeated, frustrated, scared."| Kahala parents of special needs boy take frustrations with DOE to the courts

New regulation of vape products takes effect

HTH: … A new law addressing taxes and regulations on vape products, e-cigarettes and electronic smoking devices went into effect for Hawaii on Saturday.

The law bans the shipment of vaping products and e-cigarettes to anyone on the islands without a proper license and will require retailers and wholesalers to update their permits and licensing with the Department of Taxation….

Prior to the law, Hawaii did not regulate electronic smoking devices through licensing, permitting or taxation, but beginning Jan. 1 2024, e-cigarettes and vape products will be taxed at the same rate as other tobacco products.

The change will result in a 70% cost increase for retailers seeking proper permits and licensing. As a result, the cost of vaping products sold throughout the state could increase to offset the new fees….

The state Department of Health reported that nearly 1 in 3 Hawaii high school students vape regularly, and for Hawaii County, more than 1 in 10 middle schoolers have tried vaping, the highest of any county throughout the state.

“Kids will no longer be able to purchase online and just say they’re 21 and get it delivered to their home,” Mierzwa added. “We’re also going to have a better sense of what’s coming into the state now and there will be more responsibility all around.”

But the change in permitting and licensing, along with the new costs, has concerned groups like the Retail Merchants of Hawaii, a nonprofit trade organization representing a variety of mom and pop stores, large box stores and other retailers throughout the state.

“The assumption is that if electronic smoking products are too expensive, less people will purchase them, this is not the case,” said Retail Merchants of Hawaii President Tina Yamaki in written testimony opposing the bill. “We will see more people finding ways to purchase from military facilities where there are no taxes charged, furthermore, this pushes vape products to be even more desirable on the black market where prices are lower.”

Yamaki added the change may also inadvertently impact a consumer’s decision on what to purchase.

“If raising the taxes is meant to deter people from smoking or vaping, it may have the opposite effect, and have them turn back to cigarettes,” Yamaki said….

News Release: ACTION TO IMPROVE THE HEALTH OF HAWAIʻI’S YOUTH – SB975

Related: Retailers to stop shipping cigars to Hawaii July 1

read … New regulation of vape products takes effect

Reforming Hawai’i Definition of Renewable Energy Loses Urgency

IM: … The Hawai’i Supreme Court may have put a damper on the need for legislative reform.

The court issued its Paeahu Solar decision in 2022. “When there is no reasonable threat to a trust resource, satisfying those statutory provisions fulfills the PUC’s obligations as trustee. But when a  project poses a reasonable threat, the public trust principles require more from the PUC: the commission must assess that threat and make specific findings about the affected trust resource.”

The court issued its fourth Hu Honua decision in 2023. “HRS § 269-6 cannot be read in isolation from HRS § 225P-5 (Supp. 2021), another law relating to environmental quality, which sets a state policy of achieving carbon neutrality `as quickly as practicable, but no later than 2045.` 

"HRS § 225P-5 mandates that we reduce emissions now, before the damage done to the environment is irreversible — before action becomes impossible for future generations.”

These two court decisions accomplish what the Legislature has failed to do so. The PUC must evaluate all biofuel contracts from public trust, and lifecycle perspectives. Tree burning will fail each test. 

Thus, the need to exclude trees from the definition of renewable energy has greatly diminished….

read … Reforming Hawai`i Definition of Renewable Energy Loses Urgency

State to acquire Wahiawa system, including Lake Wilson

SA: … A bill that calls for the state to acquire the Wahiawa irrigation system — including Lake Wilson Reservoir, the Wahiawa Dam and spillway — was signed into law by Gov. Josh Green on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 833 requires the governor to negotiate the acquisition from owner Dole Food Co. Hawaii….

Dole Food has indicated it is prepared to give the irrigation system to the state in exchange for a maximum of 6 million gallons a day, the amount of water necessary to keep its agricultural operations going in Central Oahu.

The measure includes two state appropriations in the amount of $5 million to acquire a fee simple interest in the spillway and $21 million to repair and expand the spillway.

The system serves some 50 agricultural operations in Wahiawa, Waialua and Haleiwa with more than 500 farm jobs, and has the capacity to serve more….

read … State to acquire Wahiawa system, including Lake Wilson

‘Brazen thievery’ cause business owners to rethink strategies

KHON:  …  The Honolulu Police Department has initiated a second-degree theft case after two men are seen on video walking out with carts full of tools. Honolulu police said, no arrests have been made at this time.

“It’s organized retail crime, they’re not doing it to feed their family,” said Tina Yamaki, Hawaii Retail Merchants of Hawaii President. “This is their job. They come in and steal thousands of dollars worth of merchandise.”

Home Depot told KHON2.com that it has security personnel who are trained to address shoplifters and other employees are directed to not approach suspect shoplifters, because it’s just too dangerous.

Meanwhile, Homeland Security Investigations said, organized retail crime is a multi-billion dollar industry with many stolen goods ending up online….

KHON: Arrest made in brazen theft at Honolulu hardware store

HNN: Caught on camera: 3 women blatantly shoplift from Old Navy store in Waikele 

KITV: Thieves steal thousands in tools from Kalihi Home Depot

read … ‘Brazen thievery’ cause business owners to rethink strategies

Keeping the Homeless Homeless: Only two projects for the homeless have been successfully implemented in the past several years.

CB: … In recent years, Honolulu has set aside millions of dollars to try to address the city’s growing homeless population but community opposition and difficulty finding suitable projects and sites is thwarting its efforts.

The City and County of Honolulu has set aside $21 million for facilities for the homeless and others in fiscal year 2024 but there are currently no capital projects identified that would use the money, according to Anton Krucky, director of Honolulu’s Department of Community Services.

That scenario reflects a pattern over the last six budget cycles where the Honolulu City Council has made anywhere from $10 million to $20 million available for homeless services and other projects that can include short- and long-term housing.

During that time the city has spent just $7.8 million across two projects, according to the Department of Community Services. …

read … Only two projects for the homeless have been successfully implemented in the past several years.

One Homeless Drug House Generates 1,000 Fire Calls and 6,479 Police Calls

HTH: … At a meeting of the County Council’s Governmental Operations and External Affairs Committee, Lt. William Derr of the Hawaii Police Department said that there have been 6,479 calls to police regarding the building between September. 2018 and April 12, but added that that number is still underselling how troublesome Uncle Billy’s is.

“That’s just the number of calls people are making to the police,” Derr said. “But officers do patrol the area and can initiate cases on their own, so the number is a little misleading, and probably should be a bit bigger.”

Meanwhile, Derr said that calls to the building — which include sexual assaults, suicides and more — are resource-intensive. Officers have to search the building and control access to it during an investigation, which requires multiple officers working “hours and hours.”

Hawaii Fire Department Chief Kazuo Todd added that the hotel is “a multistory building full of combustibles that has squatters who start fires.”

According to the resolution, the county has spent roughly $122,000 on nearly 1,000 fire calls in the Banyan Drive area since May 2018….

read … Resolution urges governor to issue emergency proclamation for Uncle Billy’s

83,000 Cesspools: This is gonna cost

AP: … Honolulu City Council member Matt Weyer said his constituents are concerned about cesspool conversion costs, with estimates running $10,000 to $50,000 per property.

His largely rural district includes Hauula, Oahu’s North Shore and most of the Oahu cesspools scientists say most urgently need to be closed.

In March, the state offered $5 million in grants of up to $20,000 each to help property owners. The money ran out in just two weeks.

Honolulu’s municipal government, responsible for all of Oahu, plans to eliminate nearly 1,000 of the island’s 7,500 cesspools by spending $50 million to run sewer lines to an Ewa Beach neighborhood. The project mainly will be funded by tax-exempt municipal bonds.

The city is also studying ways to connect homes in Haleiwa, Kahuku and Waimanalo — coastal towns with many cesspools. But Roger Babcock, director of Honolulu’s Department of Environmental Services, said it won’t be feasible to lay sewer lines everywhere.

The city is already spending $2.7 billion, under an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to upgrade two wastewater treatment plants and reduce sewage spills.

Even with its hundreds of cesspools, the scenic seaside town of Hauula is not currently on the city’s list for a sewer line study….

CB: Hawaii’s Cesspool Crisis Has A Long History. It’s Not Over Yet

read … 83,000 Hawaii homes dispose of sewage in cesspools. Rising sea levels will make them more of a mess

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