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Sunday, April 21, 2024
April 21, 2024 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 5:27 PM :: 2820 Views

And Now the Big Guns Come Out

Maui County's new Recovery Permitting Center to open April 29 in Kahului

HB2526 Goes to Governor: Felony for repeat offenders who drive without a license

OIP Issues Five New Opinions

Hawaii Family Forum Legislative Week in Review

Hawaii Congressional Delegation How They Voted April 20, 2024

“Everyone gets very upset with pay-to-play, but it’s legal.”

CB: … “Everyone gets very upset with pay-to-play, but it’s legal,” said Kristin Izumi-Nitao, executive director of the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission….

The commission was clearly aware of the issue when it proposed Senate Bill 2214 and House Bill 1849, but after reading the Civil Beat/New York Times report, even Izumi-Nitao found that “the numbers were a bit surprising. And if the bill had been in effect, I believe those numbers would not be as high.”

The identical measures introduced in the House and Senate would have expanded a 2006 ban on campaign contributions from government contractors to include the officers and immediate family members of the company owners. It also would have applied the same prohibitions to recipients of government grants.

They were modified versions of a measure that unanimously passed the House and Senate in 2023 but died during the secretive conference committee period when disagreements between the two chambers must be resolved if a bill is to become law.

Far less love was shown to the proposal this session by the Judiciary chairs, Rep. David Tarnas and Sen. Karl Rhoads.

Tarnas had said during a pre-session interview that when it came to government reform measures, he would prioritize consideration of bills that had made it to conference committee the previous year.

That didn’t happen with HB 1849, and Tarnas didn’t respond to a Civil Beat request to explain why….

(CLUE:  Legislators will not act because they are the problem.  What we need is more tips.  Where and when are the contribution parties being held?  Who are the false-name contributors and who is behind them?) 

NYT: Naming Names: Airports Division Ran Late-Night Parties Where Hawaii Politicians Raked In Money

CB: John Pritchett: Life Of The Party - Honolulu Civil Beat

read … Now We Know The Scale Of Pay-To-Play Politics In Hawaii. It's Long Past Time To Act - Honolulu Civil Beat

Lahaina Housing Shortfall caused by Green’s refusal to accept FEMA trailers

SA: … FEMA typically deploys trailered mobile homes for disaster survivors displaced from housing, if requested by state or local government officials. Such units — commonly known as travel trailers and equipped with kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms — could have been shipped to Maui. FEMA has thousands of these units available, and Inge said the cost to deliver and connect them to utilities isn’t an issue for the agency.

Green, however, decided such homes were not a desirable or dignified choice.

As a result, the state- and county-led housing relief plan for wildfire evacuees remains more challenging and could take longer than expected to achieve….

By February, local government officials were asking FEMA to build 1,000 homes….

according to FEMA, is that the agency’s core mission and main capabilities don’t include building new homes for emergency disaster relief.

Building new homes is an “absolute last alternative” to what the agency typically provides, said FEMA spokesperson Victor Inge ….

(CLUE: The plan is to push Lahaina survivors out of Hawaii.  Everybody is doing their part to achieve this goal.)

Meanwhile: Lahaina fire victims must 'show regular progress toward their permanent housing plan in order to continue staying in FEMA housing'

read … Big ask for FEMA homes for Maui fire survivors meets resistance

‘Just say the word and we'll get you a flight to Nevada or California'

DM: … Fire victim is Kailani Koa, 64, who works at Kahului airport, has ended up living in a tent in the parking lot of Hanakao'o Park after losing her home and most of her possessions in the blaze.

Her house is now a large blue tent while bathing comes courtesy of a nearby beach shower and drinking water from a leaky bucket set up close to her tent.

She says she was booted out of temporary accommodation at the $364-a-night Royal Lahaina Resort three months ago and has received little help beyond what she gets from her church….

Living in the same camp as Kailani is Tai Hoefer, 60, who shares a tent with his two dogs Pepe and Mochi.

Like Kailani, he was also kicked out of temporary accommodation at the Royal Lahaina and complains that little is being done to help locals like him find rental homes…

He and his friend who goes by the name 'Bradda', 41, are now nervously waiting to be moved on, having been informed by the local authorities they have two weeks to vacate the park.

Bradda said: 'Once they kick us out of here, we've got nowhere to go. Tell the government they need to make some rules.

'They refuse to listen to us. Even though FEMA offers triple rent to the Airbnbs, they still won't rent them out to us and now people will have to move.'

Many have already done just that with FEMA offering relocation assistance to fire victims who want to go to other parts of Maui, other Hawaiian Islands and even the mainland US….

He says he finds it insulting that FEMA is offering families cash to relocate elsewhere and says the agency should focus on rebuilding homes in the town itself.

Progress on that front appears to be glacial.

Benny said: 'It is the most insulting thing you can do, really. I kept getting calls from FEMA and what I was getting was basically an auction of where I would like to go next.

'The conversation becomes: 'Hey, if you want to get out of here, I can get you a plane ticket to go anywhere in the mainland. Just say the word and we'll get you a flight to Nevada or California'….

read … Lahaina wildfire survivors are homeless and living in beach encampments eight months after Hawaii's deadliest blaze ripped through the Maui town and displaced thousands

Firefighters and police could have saved more lives and property if not saddled with inept county leadership

Shapiro: … firefighters and police could have saved more lives and property if not saddled with inept county leadership….

The report depicts Bissen as shuttling cluelessly between the emergency center, his office and a medical appointment, asking “layperson questions,” getting spotty information from social media and generally trying to stay out of the way as the fire built.

He turned down help from other counties and was slow to contact Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara, head of state emergency management and the Hawaii National Guard. Hara offered full cooperation but was given incomplete information and went to bed unaware of the magnitude of the tragedy unfolding in Lahaina.

Bissen failed to order his little-qualified emergency management director, Herman Andaya, to return from a conference on Oahu, where he monitored the situation via texts with an aide who had little accurate information to give.

The mayor and Andaya hadn’t mobilized emergency operations in advance despite warnings from the National Weather Service that passing hurricane winds posed extreme wildfire risks that day.

Andaya, since sent packing, told the attorney general’s investigators the mayor felt Maui could handle the situation on its own and didn’t need to call in the National Guard or other outside help. He didn’t return from his conference until Lahaina was already in ashes….

Borreca: This fire may have been fierce, but it was not an unimagined blaze. There actually had been a smaller but similar blaze in the same area in the past.

SA: “Unbelievable.

read … David Shapiro: Mayor Bissen led from the rear in fighting Lahaina’s fire  

Hawaii lawmakers (owned by Hotel unions) take aim at (their competition) vacation rentals after Lahaina wildfire amplifies Maui housing crisis

AP: … 47 House members who co-sponsored one version of legislation that would allow short-term rentals to be phased out. One objective is to give counties more power after a U.S. judge in 2022 ruled Honolulu violated state law when it attempted to prohibit rentals for less than 90 days. Evslin said that decision left Hawaii's counties with limited tools, such as property taxes, to control vacation rentals.

Lawmakers also considered trying to boost Hawaii's housing supply by forcing counties to allow more houses to be built on individual lots. But they watered down the measure after local officials said they were already exploring the idea.

Short-term rental owners said a phase-out would violate their property rights and take their property without compensation, potentially pushing them into foreclosure. Some predicted legal challenges.

Alicia Humiston, president of the Rentals by Owner Awareness Association, said some areas in West Maui were designed for travelers and therefore lack schools and other infrastructure families need.

“This area in West Maui that is sort of like this resort apartment zone — that’s all north of Lahaina — it was never built to be local living,” Humiston said….

HB1838: Text, Status

SB3202: Text, Status

read … Hawaii lawmakers take aim at vacation rentals after Lahaina wildfire amplifies Maui housing crisis

HB2443 Measure to decriminalize weed: 'De facto legalization' set for Senate Vote

KHON: … Legalizing Marijuana is no longer an option at the State Legislature in 2024, but Honolulu’s prosecutor said another measure to decriminalize weed would be de facto legalization….

Alm said adult possession of up to three grams of marijuana — about six cigarettes or joints worth — is already decriminalized in Hawaii.

“There’s a bill right now to raise the three grams up to an ounce, which is 28+, that’s about 60 joints,” Alm said. “We beat off the big bill, the legalization, but this is de facto legalization.” …

Alm added the legalization bill — which he opposed and is now dead — did have provisions for fentanyl testing in legal marijuana stores and education campaigns to discourage teenagers from using.

“Well, the decriminalization,” Alm said, “guess what? Has none of those in it!” …

The State Senate has agreed to take a full vote on the decriminalization bill on Monday, April 22. If it passes, it will then go to Gov. Josh Green’s office for a signature or veto….

SA: Column: ‘De facto’ legal pot bill endangers public

HB2443: Text, Status

read … Measure to decriminalize weed: 'De facto legalization'

TMT project manager admits past mistakes, notes project is dependent on NSF funding, support from Hawaiians

HTH: … the telescope’s future in 2024 is very unclear. Even though Liu said the Hawaiian people will decide whether the telescope is built, there is another force that has yet to make a decision about that: the United States government.

The National Academy of Sciences strongly recommended in 2020 that the U.S. National Science Foundation invest in an “Extremely Large Telescope Project” that would develop both the TMT on Maunakea and the planned Giant Magellan Telescope in Chile.

However, the NSF board announced in February a recommendation that the project not exceed $1.6 billion.

Because that spending limit likely will only barely cover the cost of a single Extremely Large Telescope, NSF will have to choose between one telescope or the other.

In May, NSF will announce a process to determine which telescope NSF will fund. Liu said he does not want to speculate how that plan will be carried out, or when it will be completed, but was confident that his team will make TMT an attractive prospect for NSF.

Significantly, Liu noted that the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile already exists, and that a next-generation observatory in the Northern Hemisphere would be inherently less redundant and allow for greater coverage of the night sky than a second next-gen observatory in the Southern Hemisphere.

However, should NSF choose otherwise, Liu said TMT could be in jeopardy.

“I don’t see a path to complete building the observatory without NSF funding,” Liu said.

So far, Liu said, TMT has received about $2 billion in in-kind support from the project’s partners, which include the California Institute of Technology, the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, the Canadian National Research Council, the Department of Science and Technology of the Indian government, and the National Institutes of National Sciences of Japan.

Those partners have continued to make progress on constructing the telescope’s systems, even as construction in Hawaii has stalled. Liu said that the observatory’s design is “very mature,” and that 84% of its systems and subsystems are either in the final design phases or are design-complete.

So far, 109 segments of the telescope’s eponymous 30-meter-diameter primary mirror have been cut and polished around the world, leaving 383 to go.

Meanwhile, Canada has completed its designs for the telescope’s 18-story dome and adaptive optics systems.

But, Liu added, “we’re obviously limited by how much money we have to now build components,” and Canada’s work currently is on pause now that its design work is complete….

read … TMT project manager admits past mistakes, notes project is dependent on NSF funding, support from Hawaiians

More setbacks for Honua Ola ILWU Scam BioMass Project: Ongoing lawsuit against HECO seeks $1B in damages

HTH: … Honua Ola, formerly known as Hu Honua Bioenergy, was given permission by the U.S. District Court in Honolulu to file by April 23 a third amended complaint in its longstanding lawsuit against Hawaiian Electric, but was denied permission to add Pacific Current, Hamakua Holdings and Hamakua Energy as named defendants….

The judge’s order also denies Honua Ola’s request to claim injury under sections of U.S. antitrust law by HECO’s acquisition of Hamakua Energy — the former Hamakua Energy Partners powerplant, a 60-megawatt facility….

The 21.5-megawatt plant in Pepeekeo was financed by a group of wealthy mainland investors led by Jennifer Johnson, president and CEO of Franklin Resources — parent company of Franklin Templeton Investments — an American multinational holding company with a reported $1.53 trillion in assets.

Honua Ola estimated that over the 30-year term of an energy contract with Hawaiian Electric, its electricity would be supplied at an average of 22 cents per kilowatt hour. (Wow what a scam!) That’s considerably higher than estimates of recently approved solar contracts, with projected costs of 8 cents to 9 cents per kilowatt hour….

read … More setbacks for Honua Ola: Ongoing lawsuit against HECO seeks $1B in damages

Will Legislators Abolish School Facilities Administration?

CB: …  Some legislators say the authority has fallen short of its intended goal, citing SFA’s struggle to hire staff and make headway on projects over the past two years. For example, while the state initially tasked SFA with constructing 200 pre-kindergarten classrooms by June, only 13 classrooms have been completed so far. 

(CLUE: In most locations, existing vacant classrooms can be used.  Pre-K is the DoE bureaucracy seeking a way to justify itself.  Since enrollment is dropping, DoE is adding pre-k students to make up the difference.)

Last November, DOE proposed to lapse nearly half a billion dollars in construction funding, citing permitting delays and internal challenges with project oversight….

While legislators created SFA in 2020, the authority lacked leadership until 2022, when Chad Farias was appointed executive director. The authority received funding for its projects in the same year, including $200 million for constructing pre-kindergarten classrooms and $20 million for building a new elementary and middle school in Central Maui. 

But SFA continued to face delays. In a January briefing before the Senate Ways and Means Committee, Farias said SFA struggled to find an office space for its six-member staff over the past year. When asked about teacher housing that burned down on Molokai, Farias said he was unaware of the incident and didn’t have an inventory of school facilities across the state. …

Under House Bill 2834, half of the $200 million appropriated to SFA for pre-kindergarten classrooms would go to the DOE. The department could spend the $100 million on any school construction project, not just preschools. …

In response to the DOE’s proposal to lapse nearly half a billion dollars in school construction funds, senators introduced SB3328 this session to reorganize the DOE office responsible for school facilities and eliminate SFA altogether….

Farias resigned as executive director at the end of January….

read … Political Fight Over School Construction Could Slow Hawaii's Preschool Expansion Plans

SB2615: Building Inspectors will enforce Project Labor Agreements

SA: … Honolulu Council member (and Carpenters Union operative) Tyler Dos Santos-Tam, whose district spans from Kakaako to Kalihi, said in written testimony that there have been allegations of labor abuse there — including complaints about immigrant construction workers on residential properties having their passports withheld or being required to live on job sites during construction of residential properties.

 “(Senate Bill 2615) would empower the (same useless DPP) inspectors who visit construction sites to verify labor standards, such as wages, benefits, and apprenticeship standards (or collect manapua),” he said.

Dos Santos-Tam said if counties had the power to adopt labor standards, with enforcement through existing city inspectors, “we would be able to stop these unscrupulous actors more quickly, versus engaging in a multiagency enforcement process, as is the case now.”

Maui Council member (and Carpenters Union operative) Nohelani U‘u-Hodgins also submitted written testimony that SB 2615 is a step forward in protecting the local workforce and ensuring the well-being of individuals and their families….

RELATED: PLA? State keeps piling on rules that increase Hawaii’s cost of living

read … Bill establishing labor standards in Hawaii moves forward

Lahaina Fire News:

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