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January 21, 2024 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:58 PM :: 6765 Views

Will Tax Relief be on Agenda for 2024?

Changing ideas is the key to improving Hawaii

Saiki Updates House Committee Assignments

Hawaii Has Been Named the Most Corrupt State in America

IM: … In a recent evaluation conducted by the Institute for Corruption Studies at Illinois State University, Hawaii, known as the Aloha State, has once again claimed the rather unwelcome title of the most corrupt in the United States.

At the forefront of this unsettling distinction is Honolulu, Hawaii’s state capital, which stands out with the highest percentage of public corruption convictions per capita, as revealed in the comprehensive report covering the years 1976 to 2024. Other major cities like Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago also find their place on this regrettable list….

fostering a culture where loyalty, partiality, and personal connections often take precedence over honesty, transparency, and responsibility…

heavily reliant on tourism and military spending, Hawaii becomes susceptible to external influences. Foreign investors, lobbyists, and contractors exploit the state’s resources by collaborating with local politicians and officials who accept bribes, kickbacks, and campaign contributions in exchange for support and influence….

The dominance of the Democratic Party in Hawaii’s state legislature since 1954 has resulted in a lack of political diversity, reducing checks and balances and enabling power abuse….

Major corruption instances, including the Bishop Estate scandal, problems with the Honolulu rail project, and the Kealoha Scandal, vividly highlight corruption’s pervasive nature across all levels of Hawaii’s government….

WTTW: Illinois is the third-most corrupt state

read … Hawaii Has Been Named the Most Corrupt State in America!

David Shapiro: Family ties pay off nicely in Green’s musical chairs

Shapiro: … The job switch is a financial boon for the Mizunos. John’s salary soared from $72,348 in the Legislature to $120,000 in the new job, with big potential increases to his state pension, while the House seat stayed in the family with May, whose pay as his office manager was listed between $70,001 and $85,000.

It has aroused public cynicism that May Mizuno’s appointment to the House appeared a prearranged part of a political deal, with other applicants never having a chance. She held a fundraiser for reelection before Green officially made his choice.

THE DISREGARD FOR STINKY appearances is a bad look for Green, who at times has come across more like a standard-issue machine politician than the breath of fresh air he promised….

The Mizuno deal is the latest in a string of his appointments that leave a scent of political insiders rewarding themselves in an incestuous cycle that thwarts change we need in our underperforming local government.

For a recent Maui Senate vacancy, Green chose Rep. Troy Hashimoto, former chairman of the Maui Democratic Party and executive assistant to former Maui Council Chairman Mike White. He got his House seat courtesy of an appointment by former Gov. David Ige.

To fill Hashimoto’s House seat, Green appointed Tyson Miyake, who served as chief of staff to former Maui Mayor Mike Victorino.

For a coveted state Supreme Court appointment, Green picked politically connected labor lawyer Vladimir Devens, who cruised through the nomination and Senate confirmation process without it ever being disclosed that he served four years as a director of a super PAC tied to the Hawaii Regional Council of Carpenters, which spent well over $1 million to help Green get elected lieutenant governor and then governor.

As if we need more proof that money talks in handing out local political fruits.

Then there’s the matter of the shameless nepotism in the Legislature that allowed May Mizuno to serve 17 years as her husband’s well-paid office manager.

The Legislature passed a strong anti-nepotism bill that barred employees of the executive branch from hiring relatives, but lawmakers notoriously fond of employing family exempted themselves.

Ironically, the reform was inspired in part by the federal bribery conviction of former Rep. Ty Cullen, who was criticized for hiring relatives….

read … David Shapiro: Family ties pay off nicely in Green’s musical chairs

How A Maui Court Mishandled A Divorce Case Involving One Of Its Own

CB: … Imagine that you are getting a divorce after your spouse embarks on an extramarital relationship.

Imagine that this spouse’s new romantic partner is a judge. In fact, your divorce proceedings are in the very courthouse where that judge works.

After your attorney quits, you have a hard time finding a new one, in part because lawyers have cases before the judge who is now your ex’s girlfriend. You are unrepresented when your husband’s attorney sends a number of confusing and contradictory court documents to your post office box.

At the time, you’re moving out of the house you shared with your husband and two children for 23 years and working a second job cleaning commercial properties to make ends meet. In the confusion, you miss a court date that was supposed to be about a motion to compel you to provide documents.

Only later do you discover that in your absence, the whole divorce case — not the motion on discovery — was decided by a colleague of your ex’s girlfriend in a way you consider very much to your former husband’s advantage.

Welcome to the Maui court system ….

Now that the divorce has been remanded back to Family Court, all the judges in Maui have recused themselves because the case involves a colleague.

But why didn’t all the Maui judges recuse themselves six or seven years ago, when they handled the divorce the first time around? The judge who is involved with the husband, Michelle Drewyer, was a per diem judge at the time…

Gov. Josh Green appointed Drewyer to be a Circuit Court judge last year….

read … John Hill: How A Maui Court Mishandled A Divorce Case Involving One Of Its Own

Did Miske get government subsidies for hiring cons?

ILind: … Miske drew on various government programs that provide subsidies to employers who give jobs to certain targeted groups facing barriers to employment, including those released from prison, or facing a work requirement as a condition of probation. As I understand it, the businesses receive a tax credit for each of those qualified individuals who are hired.

Many of those looking for work were likely required to be employed as a condition of their probation or parole.

According to this tipster, the jobs would “generate extreme loyalty as most of them realized that if they didn’t do as they were told, they could get fired with cause, reported to their parole officers and be subject to reincarceration if not re employed somewhere some how. So who’s gonna hire a convicted criminal who got fired from his job on his release conditions……… boy does that give one power!” ….

read … Did Miske get government subsidies for hiring cons?

Is Star-Advertiser Worthless?

SA: … One of the first questions they’ll face will concern the future of the chain’s single-largest paper: the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. The paper could, hypothetically, be sold. It’s the only major daily newspaper in the chain and, as such, could potentially fetch the largest sum of money should it be sold. But it also might be a money pit that is currently sucking up profits from the chain’s other smaller papers.

Black Press obtained its Hawaii daily paper for just $10 two decades ago. One would think it would be worth more than that today. In 2021, the Tribune Publishing newspaper chain in the United States sold for $633 million. Tribune owned 11 papers, putting the average value of each one at around $55 million. The Baltimore Sun was valued by one potential buyer at around $63 million. But a newspaper’s value also depends on the financial baggage and obligations it carries, and how profitable it is. Some North American newspapers have been judged essentially worthless and either stripped for assets, folded, or turned into non-profits.

The Hawaii paper could also be judged essentially worthless in the short term, but with potentially long-term value if its new owners can make it profitable—a shift that, if history is any indication, would be attempted via severe staffing cuts ….

CB: John Pritchett: Falling Star - Honolulu Civil Beat

read … A Canadian view of the insolvency of the Star-Advertiser’s parent company

Legislature has no plan for Lahaina

Borreca: … So far the 68 Democrats and eight Republicans have yet to put forward a specific building proposal.

“So following the wildfire, the House created working groups because the House members all wanted to help in some way. We formed working groups that focused on six different topics ranging from schools, food housing and wildfire prevention,” House Speaker Scott Saiki said in an interview during last week’s opening day.

Leaders in both the House and Senate add that while recovering from the Maui devastation is top of mind, there does not appear to be a single identifiable, cohesive plan forward….

FASHBACK: Do Lahaina Property Owners Have the Right to Rebuild?

read … On Politics: High hopes for Maui revival but most blanks unfilled

New Hawaii Tourist Fees: Creative Hikes Set to Curb Tourism

BH: … Hawaii is raising taxes and fees, much of which disproportionately impacts visitors. Since the state has stated a desire to reduce Hawaii tourism, perhaps these plans are in perfect alignment with achieving the state’s goals.

London-based World Travel and Tourism Council, however, cautioned that high taxes on tourism could reduce tax revenues collected as it either deters travel to a destination or reduces the number of days visitors spend. In addition, they warned that high taxes on visitor accommodations and airfare can negatively impact highly desirable local spending. The State of Hawaii does not seem to be concerned about that….

read … New Hawaii Tourist Fees: Creative Hikes Set to Curb Tourism - Beat of Hawaii

Danger: Legislators Introduce 1,500 New Bills Before Deadline

SA: … Friday was the deadline for the introduction of bills, except for bills from the administration of Gov. Josh Green introduced by lawmakers on Green’s behalf.

As of Friday’s deadline, lawmakers introduced 1,580 new bills in 2024 that will be up for consideration along with 2,858 bills that were introduced in 2023 but didn’t pass and have carried over to the second half of the 32nd Legislature’s biennium.

On average, only about 250 bills annually have become law over the past decade or so….

SA: Green to deliver second State of the State address Monday

read … Wide range of bills before Hawaii Legislature aim at issues broad, specific

Hawaii financial management system in need of upgrade after latest failed tech upgrade

SA: … A state agency is seeking more than $60 million to upgrade a centralized financial management system after halting botched work on the critical project last year.

The state Department of Accounting and General Services is seeking the funding from the Legislature, and received heavy criticism from some lawmakers recently after it was disclosed that $8 million of prior work by a contractor was partially or perhaps largely wasted.

Keith Regan, director of DAGS, earlier this month briefed two legislative committees on the agency’s intent to obtain money for basically starting over with the project to modernize its more than 50-year-old Financial Accounting and Management Information System….

(CLUE: New contractor must create a DOS-style interface for HGEA members to use.  Otherwise--doomed!)

In March, a committee made up of Regan, state Chief Information Officer Douglas Murdock and state Budget and Finance Director Luis Salaveria decided to cancel the contract.

Murdock told the Ways and Means Committee that the system upgrade contractor was fired for convenience, instead of for cause, because the state shared some responsibility for the troubled project.

(CLUE: New contractor must create a DOS-style interface for HGEA members to use.) 

For instance, there weren’t enough state personnel with sufficient knowledge to adequately help the contractor deliver what was sought, Murdock told the committee.

(CLUE: New contractor must create a DOS-style interface for HGEA members to use.) 

Regan also said there needed to be more engagement with various departments as end users of the system….

(CLUE: New contractor must create a DOS-style interface for HGEA members to use.) 

read … Hawaii financial management system in need of upgrade after halting botched work | Honolulu Star-Advertiser (staradvertiser.com)

Council Quietly Guts Tsunami Safety

SA: …Since the Honolulu City and County DEM relies on vertical evacuation in its tsunami evacuation plan, the ASCE 7-16 tsunami design provisions were adopted into the Honolulu building code on May 20, 2020, for all new buildings taller than 65 feet in the TDZ — but now the Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) is trying to rescind that requirement.

At the City Council, Bill 65 is currently being considered that would adopt the 2018 International Building Code, which references ASCE 7-16 for tsunami design. This bill originally required tsunami design of buildings in the TDZ that were taller than 90 feet (equivalent to 10 stories). Unfortunately, after nearly a year of development of the detailed provisions, at the last minute on Jan. 10 the DPP suddenly removed this requirement in the current January 2024 draft of Bill 65 CD1 — so there would be no design for tsunami safety of high-rise buildings at all. Just leave it to luck instead of engineering?…

read … Column: Keep tsunami high-rise codes intact

Lahaina Fire News:

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