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April 2, 2024 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:37 PM :: 3428 Views

Twenty States Ask SCOTUS to Stop Hawaii Supreme Court from Dictating US Energy Policy

Concealed Carry Win on Big Island

How OHA Affects All People

Lahaina Fire: COFA Citizens may now Apply for FEMA Aid

High Fives And Hugs: Witness Describes Friendly Relationship Between Mike Miske And HPD Officers

CB: … Miller, a customer of Miske’s fumigation business at the time, had gotten into a dispute with the accused racketeer over a fumigation job. 

Miske, who is now under a 22-count indictment and in the middle of his federal racketeering trial, started threatening Miller on the phone, Miller told jurors Monday. Miske said he was “connected to authorities” and could make Miller’s life “complicated.” So Miller decided to call the police, he testified. 

He requested officers accompany him to Kamaaina Termite where he would address the issues with Miske. But when he arrived, he saw cops exchanging high fives and hugs with Miske and treating him like a friend, Miller said. 

The cops told Miller he was “giving this businessman a hard time” and told him to get lost without taking a report about the threats, Miller said….

ILind: Witness said HPD officers hugged, defended Miske

read … High Fives And Hugs: Witness Describes Friendly Relationship Between Mike Miske And HPD Officers

Navy Whistleblower Pursued Fraud Case Against Red Hill Contractors, Unsealed Documents Show

CB: … Prior to the fuel leaks at Red Hill in 2021, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Shannon Bencs raised concerns with her superiors about the lines that ran through the underground facility’s tunnels. Newly unsealed court records show she subsequently filed a False Claims Act case against contractors responsible for maintaining, inspecting and repairing many of those lines….

Bencs, a former Red Hill fuel director, had previously reported grave mismanagement and abuse at the underground fuel facility in early 2021, months before fuel leaks there contaminated the drinking water and sickened hundreds of military families. 

After Bencs raised those concerns, however, her Navy superiors removed her from her job duties.

The documents that were unsealed late last week in U.S. District Court show that Bencs subsequently filed a False Claims Act case against five private contractors for doing shoddy work at Red Hill, prompting the DOJ to investigate and weigh whether to pursue its own fraud charges against them.

Those contractors — Georgia-based construction company Pond & Co., Louisiana-based engineering company Aptim Corp., Texas-based infrastructure company AECOM and Colorado-based construction company Hensel Phelps — collected military contracts worth nearly $400 million to maintain, inspect and repair key, vulnerable systems at Red Hill, according to Bencs’ newly unsealed complaint.

The systems those companies were paid to oversee included the miles of fuel and fire suppression lines that run through the storage facilities.

“The Contractors failed at the most basic level to install and maintain the proper components and equipment – such as installing synthetic plastic pipes instead of steel pipes to run alongside fire-hot fuel pipes – throughout the Red Fuel facility,” the complaint says. “These failures were themselves contributing factors to the fuel leaks.” ….

The case’s dismissal comes as a separate lawsuit on behalf of military service members sickened by the Red Hill leaks prepares to go to trial in May….

(EDITOR’s NOTE:  Bencs’ Qui Tam was ‘federalized’ and then voluntarily dismissed ‘without prejudice’.  This leaves the door open for the Federal Gov’t to re-file the case--or file a criminal case against Red Hill contractors.) 

PDF: 1:22-cv-00036-DKW-WRP Bencs v. Pond & Company et al

read … Navy Whistleblower Pursued Fraud Case Against Red Hill Contractors, Unsealed Documents Show - Honolulu Civil Beat

Eminent Domain News: Green Will Take ‘Unilateral Action’ To Install ‘Venice of the Pacific’ Tourist Water Feature

CB: … The governor has tasked his attorney general, Anne Lopez, and the Department of Land and Natural Resources chair, Dawn Chang, to “make it happen.” That means laying the groundwork for the restoration project, which would be the first step, and later creating a separate cultural corridor that would celebrate Lahaina’s unique history and diversity.

Green has been coordinating with Mayor Richard Bissen, Native Hawaiian waterman Archie Kalepa, who sits on the mayor’s Lahaina Advisory Committee, and Ke‘eaumoku Kapu, who runs a Hawaiian nonprofit based in Lahaina where his family has ties dating back generations.

While the details are still being worked out, the executive action Green says he intends to take follows the death of two bills this legislative session that set out to accomplish similar goals. Those measures drew significant opposition, with much of the criticism coming from early versions that had government authorities on Oahu controlling the parameters of a cultural corridor and shaping the pond’s restoration….

The governor said he was clear with Lopez and Chang. He wants them to prepare for a land transfer so that the Moku‘ula and Mokuhinia parcel is put in a trust, or some similar status, to be managed by the Lahaina community, likely by Kapu and his nonprofit Na Aikane o Maui or similar cultural organization….

(This creates a crisis.  Where will the water come from?)

While the 17-acre wetland lies mostly on county land, making its transformation potentially less complicated, creating a larger cultural corridor could involve private parcels, which has raised concerns over the potential use of eminent domain.

Faraz Azizsoltani, who runs a pool maintenance and aquatics business, owned two properties on Shaw Street which backs up to the county park and former fishpond. 

“It’s not about the money,” Azizsoltani said. “I’m not interested. I want to keep my land.” …

(CLUE: Eminent Domain will be used to seize properties for a ‘cultural corridor’ mauka of the water feature.)

read … Hawaii Governor Will Take ‘Unilateral Action’ To Restore Historic Wetland In Lahaina - Honolulu Civil Beat

As deadline looms, lawmakers evaluating best use of limited money for tax breaks

HNN: … Among the most active groups are local primary care doctors who run independent offices or clinics.

Unlike large non-profit hospitals and health care center, the private physicians must pay excise tax on all the care they provide. Especially in rural areas with many patients either uninsured or covered by government health care programs, the doctors say they are losing money and in danger of shutting down.

Dr. Kaohimanu Dang Akiona owns Molokai Family and Urgent Care. She and other independent providers are lobbying hard for their survival.

“In addition to losing a little bit on every patient we’re seeing, we’re also paying taxes,” Dr. Dang Akiona said.

“We’re re getting more desperate. More of us are on the verge of closing.”

Senate Ways and Means Chair Donovan Dela Cruz says that’s one of the breaks he’s considering….

On Monday, the Senate Ways and Means Committee approved raising the standard deduction from state income tax — from about $3,200 to $7,500. Dela Cruz said that’s reform that will help many families.

“Most people who are of lower middle income class or lower income class, don’t do an itemized deduction. And so this would really help them provide some kind of tax relief,” he said.

A table provided by his committee showed a family making $60,000 a year would see a $634 annual reduction in tax liability. The deduction would also rise annually with the cost of living….

read … As deadline looms, lawmakers evaluating best use of limited money for tax breaks

SB3202: Housing density bill curtailed

HTH: … Following lengthy discussion, Oahu Rep. Linda Ichiyama, chair of the Water and Land Committee, said that Hawaii County, Kauai County and the City and County of Honolulu are all moving toward their own legislation that would allow for additional dwelling units, and concluded that it might be better to wait and see how those efforts turn out rather than push a flawed bill forward.

Consequently, Ichiyama proposed amending SB 3202 by removing the section dealing with additional dwelling units, while the section allowing for reduced lot sizes would be amended to vest control of lot size requirements with the individual counties.

Onishi said these amendments make the bill “a heck of a lot stronger,” but raised concerns that allowing smaller lot sizes will simply drive up costs of land. Nonetheless, Onishi voted in favor of the amended bill, but was one of three representatives to vote aye with reservations.

Having passed its final committees, the bill must pass a second reading in the House… 

SA: Push for more homes on smaller lots statewide suffers setback

HTH: Planning Commission to mull housing-related bills - Hawaii Tribune-Herald

read … Housing density bill curtailed

Hawaii County Council Vice Chair Against Surprise Name Change for Island

KHON: … Hawaiʻi County Council vice chair said in a statement:

“I don’t believe a name change is something that should be taken up at this time. A change in the name of our island could have numerous unintended negative consequences. Per HRS 4E-3, (a), the responsibility of the board is to “designate the official names and spellings of geographic features in Hawaii and provide for circulation thereof to the appropriate state and other agencies.  In its deliberations, the board shall solicit and consider the advice and recommendations of the appropriate county government officials, and, should the board desire, other knowledgeable persons.” The purpose of Act 50 (1974) was to establish the board “to assure uniformity in the use of geographic features within the State.” Although the term “geographic feature” is not defined within Act 50 (1974), I do not believe it meant an entire island. So I question whether the Hawaiʻi Board on Geographic Names has the authority to change the name at all.” -- DR. HOLEKA INABA, HAWAII COUNTY COUNCIL VICE CHAIR

Click here to tune into the Hawaii Board on Geographic Names meeting on the topic.

Should "Hawaii Island" be renamed? | News | kitv.com

Hawaii Island's 'cryptic' potential name change explained - YouTube

HNN: A new name for Hawaii Island? A state board considering it (hawaiinewsnow.com)

read … New official name for Big Island? (khon2.com)

GPS data to be presented at trial will show officers drove past crash scene after pursuit, records reveal

HNN: … Court records show the city Prosecutor’s Office plans to employe location tracking technology in the trial against four HPD officers charged in connection with a 2021 chase and crash that seriously injured six people.

The Automated Vehicle Locator shows the location and speed of every HPD vehicle on a map.

According to the court filing, the AVL from the four officers put them at Maili Beach Park at 3:42 a.m. on Sept. 21. They all responded to a loud noise complaint from a party at Maili Beach Park.

Body camera videos obtained by HNN Investigates show the officers are focused on a white, Honda sedan that honks as it leaves the park. The court record said the AVL then shows three of the officers on the move, heading west on Farrington Highway at times hitting speeds of 100 mph….

read … GPS data to be presented at trial will show officers drove past crash scene after pursuit, records reveal

Honolulu Short 437 Officers

SA: … The State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers is urging the Honolulu Police Department and county leadership to address a shortage of 437 officers that leaves areas of Oahu with “limited to no coverage” several days a week.

With one out of every five police officer positions left unfilled, 911 response times are delayed and detectives are forced to manage heavy case loads, according to the police union….

read … Honolulu police officer shortage imperils public safety, union says

ACLU: State Supreme Court helps us turn Honolulu into one Gigantic Festering Homeless Tent City

SA: … In an earlier, separate lawsuit against Maui County filed by the ACLU, the Hawaii Supreme Court wrote last month that the due process clauses of both the U.S. and Hawaii Constitutions required Maui County to hold a hearing before seizing — and immediately destroying — homeless property in September 2021.

Taylor Brack, staff attorney for the ACLU of Hawaii, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Monday that the Hawaii Supreme Court’s ruling over its Maui lawsuit likely will help its case against Honolulu.

While the issues are different — the Maui case focused on violations of due process and the Honolulu case alleges cruel and unusual punishment — Brack said both lawsuits focus on “the constitutional rights of houseless people. So I do think there is a connection.”

(CLUE: The US Supreme Court will soon rule on a Grants Pass, Oregon case, thus upending the Hawaii ACLU game.)

Last year the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower-court ruling blocking anti-camping ordinances in San Francisco.

And a separate 9th Circuit panel ruled against Grants Pass, Ore., saying it could not enforce local ordinances that made it illegal for homeless people to use “blanket, pillow, or cardboard box for protection from the elements.”

The decision applies across nine states including Hawaii, Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

The U.S. Supreme Court in January said it will hear arguments in the Grants Pass case….

read … ACLU hopes Supreme Court homeless win helps Honolulu case

Lahaina Fire News:

Legislative Agenda:

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