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Friday, October 27, 2023
October 27, 2023 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:24 PM :: 1849 Views

Respect property rights, remove red tape for Lahaina rebuild

Quick Supreme Court Action Allows Kalima Settlement to be Paid

DLNR Transferring 99 Parcels to Agriculture Department

Grassroot testifies before county councils on housing, property tax relief, permitting

Adaptability is key to solving Hawaii’s housing crisis

Senate Judiciary Advances Biden's Hawaii Judicial Nominees 

Waipahu Resident Charged with COVID Fraud, Tax Evasion

Rail: The Grift that Just Keeps Grifting

ILind: …Honolulu’s rail remains an outrageously expensive system.

I asked one of the available AI-powered chatbots what the most expensive urban rail project has cost.

Based on my research, it looks like the BART to San Jose project, which is currently in the proposal stage, is set to be the most costly urban light rail construction project in the US at a whopping $4.7 billion. This project would extend the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) system from the existing Fremont station in the East Bay to downtown San Jose, a distance of about 16 miles. The high cost is due in part to the fact that a significant portion of the rail would be underground.

So Honolulu’s 19-mile system is now expected to be twice the cost of the 16-mile San Jose BART extension, even though that system involves tunneling underground.

I then asked what Seattle’s light rail system cost.

Seattle’s light rail system, known as Sound Transit Link Light Rail, cost a total of around $3.7 billion to build. The first phase of the system, which opened in 2009, included 20 miles of track and 15 stations, and cost around $2.3 billion. Subsequent phases, which have added additional stations and miles of track, have added to the total cost. The high cost of the system is due in part to the fact that much of it runs underground or on elevated tracks, which is more expensive to build than a surface-level rail line.

We’ll be paying off the bill for Honolulu’s rail for the rest of our lives.

A gift that keeps on giving.

read … Rail station at Honolulu airport nearly completed

HART Directors Still Claiming $580M Surplus, LOL!

SA: … During the Sept. 15 HART board of directors meeting, agency staffers said they anticipated a large cash surplus — roughly $580 million — once the line reached Kakaako. That announcement sparked interest in seeing Skyline continue to its original final destination at Ala Moana Center.

To achieve that goal, Board member Robert Yu said he wanted HART to do more planning.

“Instead of just talking about it, maybe we could put together some kind of business plan, from Civic Center to Ala Moana,” said Yu at the Sept. 15 meeting, adding such a plan could include construction costs as well as ways of gaining potential revenue. “We have $580 million; don’t know whether that’s enough, right? It seems like a lot of money, and it seems like HART always uses more money than we estimate. So, a business plan would be good with respect to going to Ala Moana.”…

…During a virtual business and community meeting Thursday afternoon, the contractor said the rail segment and its four stations — Makalapa, Lelepaua, Ahua and Kahauiki — are expected to be finished by early 2024.

“We are in the final stages of construction,” Maribell Pabalan, an STG spokesperson, said. “We are no longer putting in columns.”

In terms of station work, Makalapa Station, near Kamehameha Highway and Radford Drive and the adjacent Joint Base Pearl Harbor-­Hickam base, and Lelepaua Station, adjacent to Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, are both 97% complete, the contractor said….

Ahua Station, at Lagoon Drive and Waiwai Loop, is 93% complete, while the segment’s terminus at Kahauiki Station, at Kamehameha Highway and Middle Street, is 91% complete, the contractor said.

As far as opening the airport segment from Halawa to Middle Street, an official date is not yet known.

“HART expects to complete testing and transfer of this Airport Guideway and Stations segment in mid-2025,” Johnny Reid Jr., a HART representative, said at the meeting. “Once that happens, HART will then transfer assets over to the city Department of Transportation Services, which will do day-to-day maintenance and operations.”

After that, DTS will determine when this segment of Skyline officially opens to the public, he said.

read … Contractor provides update to Skyline’s ‘airport’ segment

Feds: HPD Officer was Child Molesting Pimp

CB: … A Honolulu police officer left the force in March 2021 as he was being investigated for pressuring a minor into taking shots of alcohol, causing them to get sick and black out. 

More than two years later, Officer Mason Jordan has been arrested on different charges related to the sexual exploitation of children and is currently being held in the federal detention center in Honolulu….

Then, an entirely different case surfaced. In May 2022, Jordan was indicted by a Honolulu grand jury on eight counts, including sexual exploitation of a child, coercion, enticement of a minor to engage in prostitution, sex trafficking of a child and cyberstalking.

U.S. marshals and agents with the federal Homeland Security Investigations arrested him on June 2, 2022, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Press releases issued by New Mexico agents and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Hawaii outline the story, including details from the indictment.

It turns out that Jordan, while still an HPD officer, allegedly took sexually explicit photographs of a child in 2017, and used a hidden camera to record sexually explicit videos of that same child on two occasions in 2016….

According to the press release, Jordan is also alleged to have impersonated that child, using social media, to recruit other local children to work for him as underage prostitutes in 2020.

“Jordan allegedly met up with some of those children for commercial sex acts in 2020,” the press release says. “Jordan also allegedly ‘sextorted’ a woman he encountered in connection with his duties as a police officer, using underage photographs he obtained of that woman.”…

June 2022: District of Hawaii | Former Honolulu Police Officer Indicted and Arrested for Child Sex Offenses | United States Department of Justice

PDF: HPD Report

read … This HPD Officer Quit In The Face Of Discipline. But The Story Didn't End There

Lending Rules too Tight: $600K ‘Affordable’ High Rise Apartments Aren’t Selling

CB: … Visitors to Sky Ala Moana’s website will notice a big sleek banner trumpeting the development’s recent news: “Sky Ala Moana West Sold Out.”

This means after years of construction – and countless pages of paperwork in order to qualify for city permit exemptions – Sky managed to sell its entire roster of market-rate units.

But its affordable units are a far different story. Of the 84 affordable units in its east tower, only 14 have sold….

It’s a dynamic that may repeat itself in the coming years….

The idea is to make sure these shiny new towers don’t just house the wealthy. But as the buildings go up, few people actually manage to purchase affordable units.

While people have shown interest and might have salaries low enough to qualify for affordable housing, those same salaries may be too low to prove they can make the monthly payments….

Affordable unit prices vary based on how much a buyer earns. The least expensive available at The Park on Keeaumoku is a fourth-floor studio that costs just below $350,000. It’s reserved for individuals who earn about $110,000 or less or for couples who make about $125,000 or less, both of which are 120% of the area median income.

Other affordable units, one-bedrooms above the 10th floor, cost almost $600,000 and are reserved for people who make 140% of the AMI. A neighboring market rate unit, also a one-bedroom, is about 120 square feet bigger and costs $772,000….

Somebody who wants to buy an affordable unit in one of these buildings would first meet with a lending officer. But these lending officers have had to reject many prospective buyers. …

But the overwhelming explanation, according to Feeley and others in positions like hers, is that the city requires a debt-to-income ratio of no more than 33% for buyers of affordable units. This ratio is too low for people who want to buy affordable units, they say. …

Honolulu’s 2023 Housing Plan, submitted Oct. 6, refers to the DTI ratio requirement as a major reason for why affordable units aren’t selling. It points out that some lenders allow DTI ratios up to 50%….

only about one out of every 20 prospective buyers are financially qualified under the city’s DTI requirement…

read … These ‘Affordable’ High Rise Apartments Aren’t Selling. It’s Not For Lack Of Interest

EPA Says 85% Of Lahaina Burn Area Has Been Cleaned Up    

CB: … Pesticides, fertilizers, asbestos, oil, pressurized fuel and other hazardous materials dislodged onto the landscape by the Lahaina wildfire have been removed from more than 85% of the 5-mile-wide burn zone, federal regulators announced Thursday.

Progress on the cleanup, which began Aug. 28, brings the recovery effort one step closer to allowing residents to return to their damaged and destroyed properties for closure and to find out what sentimental items might have survived the deadly inferno. The county has been inviting residents back to their properties on a rolling basis as workers remove toxins and hazards.

Apartment buildings have not yet been addressed by environmental authorities. This is due to a large pile-up of debris, which has made access difficult for cleanup crews, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said….

Meanwhile, the county is seeking the public’s help to identify an estimated 4,000 burned-out vehicles that were destroyed by the Lahaina fire. Residents with a damaged vehicle in the burn zone can submit an online form with the vehicle’s last known location, make and model by Friday….

Also on Thursday Hawaii Gov. Josh Green met in the Washington, D.C., with top FEMA officials, who vowed that the agency would maintain an uninterrupted presence on Maui throughout a lengthy recovery process, according to a FEMA press release….

read … EPA Says 85% Of Lahaina Burn Area Has Been Cleaned Up

‘It was a failure’: Member of wildfire advisory team says Maui can’t miss key lessons again

HNN: … “To be honest with you, I don’t think anybody understands the magnitude of what just happened,” said Rick Nava, a member of the Lahaina Advisory Team who is also serving as a community spokesperson to help guide the county’s monumental recovery efforts.

Nava is also one of thousands who lost their home in the fire….

“Emergency response through air support is having difficulties,” said Sylvia Luke, at about 10 p.m. on the night of the blaze. At the time, she was serving as acting governor.

As the flames raged, Luke along with the head of the State’s Emergency Management Agency — Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara — explained how they’d prepared in advance of Hurricane Dora’s track south of the state. A wind-fueled fire that grounded helicopters was a curve ball, they said.

“This is not something that is naturally expected from a hurricane,” Luke said.

Only, that exact same scenario happened five years earlier. In 2018, strong winds from Hurricane Lane sparked another wind-whipped wildfire that consumed more than 2,000 acres and 21 homes in the Kauaula Valley, a community just a few minutes up the hill from Lahaina.….

According to a 2021 report written by Maui County’s Cost of Government Commission, that wildfire “seriously stressed public safety” resources. The report went on to say the firefight was further complicated by strong winds that “grounded aircraft fire response,” just like earlier this year.

Knowing the history, some Lahaina residents now question why emergency planners didn’t have other resources in place, especially since the day before the Aug. 8 disaster the National Weather Service issued a red flag warning predicting wind gusts of up to 60 mph amid bone dry conditions ….

read … ‘It was a failure’: Member of wildfire advisory team says Maui can’t miss key lessons again

Hawaii Sluggishness Worsens Disasters

CB: … Since the startling false missile alert in January 2018, Hawaii has weathered a relentless storm of natural and manmade disasters. It’s been a convulsive journey, and there’s no sign of it calming on the horizon.

In 2018, Kauai grappled with severe flooding, while Hawaii island faced a volcanic eruption. The Covid-19 pandemic turned our lives upside down in 2020 and 2021, with masks and social distancing becoming the new norm.

Just as the pandemic started to recede, the Ukrainian-Russian War erupted in 2022, disrupting global supply chains and causing food and fuel prices to soar. Now the state faces what is perhaps the worst disaster in our history with the widespread destruction of the Maui wildfires….

Back in 2019 the Hawaii chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers rated our infrastructure as a D-plus. The Maui wildfires have exposed in dramatic fashion how unready we were. Communications went down early and are still struggling to come back online….

Improving interisland transportation should be a priority too. Right now we’re reliant on a handful of pricey cargo ships and the limits of air travel between the islands.

We should reconsider a robust interisland ferry network….

It shouldn’t take six months to bring in new hires. State and county officials should focus on streamlining the hiring process and modernizing the overall personnel systems to fill critical manning gaps. Many of our veterans are keen on continuing a career of public service, maybe the state and counties can participate in a DOD program called Skillbridge that is essentially a paid internship to help separating or retiring servicemen and women learn new skills and adjust to a new career.

When the Hawaii Legislature convenes in January for the start of its session not only should the focus be on relief and recovery for those impacted, but reform and resiliency. Any more delays and sluggishness will only worsen the next crisis, whether natural or manmade.

read … Hawaii Must Make Resiliency A Priority

Most Hawaii Wildfires Are Started By People, But Arson Cases Are Rarely Solved

CB: … Of all the suspected arson cases handled by Hawaii’s police departments between 2011 to 2020, an average of 8% were cleared each year – meaning cases either resulted in arrest or were closed.

Hawaii County solved the most cases on average, with 21.6%, followed by Kauai with 15.16%, Oahu with 7.2% and Maui with 5.06%….

read … Most Hawaii Wildfires Are Started By People, But Arson Cases Are Rarely Solved - Honolulu Civil Beat

Red Hill class action lawsuit tops 7,000 plaintiffs

KHON: … Attorney Kristina Baehr represents 7,000 clients and she estimates that there are 500 more who have different attorneys. While the Navy has admitted responsibility for the spill, Baehr said the Navy needs to take that further.

“The government knew that the water was contaminated and didn’t tell people to stop using the water, so the government has not admitted its failure to warn people,” said Baehr….

read … Red Hill class action lawsuit tops 7,000 plaintiffs

Oahu's electric bus fleet grounded indefinitely due to charging issue

KITV: … One of the eight chargers at the Middle Street bus yard shorted out about three weeks ago and the heat generated in the incident frayed some of the dispenser cables.

That left Department of Transportation Services (DTS) with a safety question surrounding their 17-bus fleet.

"And so, our folks made the decision that we would have to suspend charging, using the chargers, until the manufacturers have had a chance to come in to do an engineering study to determine exactly what happened. And in an abundance of caution we are going to keep them off line," said DTS Director, Roger Morton….

read … Oahu's electric bus fleet grounded indefinitely due to charging issue

Public Utilities Commission is Reviewing Ritte’s Proposed Molokai Shared Solar Project

IM: … A private energy company, or the electric utility, could build a large centralized renewable energy system interconnected into the electric grid.

Utility ratepayers would buy shares (boom!). The utility would calculate how much energy (payoff) was generated by the renewable energy facility each month, translate that into payments for the electricity generated, allocate the payments by shares, and subtract the corresponding amount from a customer’s utility bill (out of your pocket into theirs).

Maui Electric Company (MECO) released a Request for Proposal for renewable energy projects for Moloka`i in 2021. Ho`āhu Energy Cooperative Molokai, an entity that was founded on Molokai and incorporated on January 29, 2021, was the only bidder (LOL!). MECO rejected the two Ho`āhu proposals (but then the political influence came into play).

During this same timeframe, (the same Ritte cronies) Molokai Clean Energy Hui and Sustʻāinable Molokaʻi developed the Molokai Community Energy Resilience Action Plan (CERAP) through a (pseudo) community-led process.

Hoʻāhu CBRE 1 Pālā‘au LLC proposed a 2.2 megawatt (MW) solar facility coupled with a 10.1 megawatt-hour (MWh) battery energy storage system to be sited on MECO`s fossil fuel generation facility property in Pālā‘au.

Hoʻāhu contracted the services of two mission-aligned energy development companies, Shake Energy Collaborative, P.B.C. and Mana Pacific, Inc. to facilitate the design and development of this Project. In addition, the Project is supported by other consultants including Morikawa & Associates and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe.  (Since Hoahu is just a bunch of politicians and activists, they have to hire other people who actually know something about electricity.)

MECO filed a 549-page document with the Public Utilities Commission on September 29, 2023 requesting approval of the “Mid-Tier Standard Form Contract for Renewable Dispatchable Generation with Hoʻāhu CBRE 1 Pālā‘au LLC."

The proposed project was negotiated outside of the competitive bidding procurement process (LOL!). The project`s output would be under control of MECO. For the first five years, the solar panels would feed the battery. After five years, the battery could be charged by the grid ….

2021: ‘Community Based Energy’: $27.5M in GEMS for Hawaii Democratic Party Officials, Maui Councilmember

read …Public Utilities Commission is Reviewing Proposed Molokai Shared Solar Project

Land Board to consider 19-acre site as landfill for Lahaina wildfire debris

HNN: … The Land Board will consider a request Friday to use state Department of Land and Natural Resources property as a landfill for wildfire debris.

The suggested site, next to the closed Olowalu Landfill, is within five miles of the impact zone.

The landfill would not contain toxic debris being collected by the EPA in Lahaina. Those materials will be shipped to a facility off-island….

DLNR: STATE LAND BOARD TO CONSIDER LĀHAINĀ WILDFIRE DEBRIS DISPOSITION SITE

MN: Land board to consider site for fire debris

read … Land Board to consider 19-acre site as landfill for Lahaina wildfire debris (hawaiinewsnow.com)

Lahaina Fire News:

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