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Friday, April 26, 2024
April 26, 2024 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 3:59 PM :: 1768 Views

OHA Trustee Keli'i Akina Files for Re-election

After Wildfire Lawsuits, Soaring PG&E power rates approach Hawaii

Bill allowing counties more authority over short-term rentals on Green's desk

Bonfire: HART Receives $125M from Feds

UH breaks extramural funding record in FY2024, on track for $550M

Bill 152 pre-approved multi-family designs would speed up Hawaii Island housing

Hawaii Window Open: Student loan debt repayment for health professionals

Armed Shopkeeper Defeats 5-man Miske Assault Team

ILind: … By the end of last week (April 19), more than 110 witnesses had testified in the racketeering trial of former Kamaaina Termite & Pest Control owner, Michael J. Miske Jr.

Precious little of the cumulative testimony has made the news …

Here’s just one of those stories.

A robbery gone bad

…Suddenly Kaae started punching and kicking Goodrich. The store owner was suddenly in feared for his life, and the safety of others in the store at the time as the assault began.

“I remember worrying about the other guy, who had started to move,” Goodrich said. “That’s when I pulled out my pocket knife and swung for my life.”

Kaae was stabbed several times. He briefly tried to hang on to Goodrich, but then he and the second man ran for the exit.

Both attackers fled to a car waiting in front and took off, but not before Goodrich was able to puncture the two passenger side tires with his knife.

Police officers responding to the scene found the car abandoned just around the corner, with Kaae lying unresponsive on the back seat. He was pronounced dead later that evening…. 

ILind: Deadly incident in a Kailua tattoo shop: Part 2–The getaway

CB: The Miske Trial: Testimony Ties Mike Miske To A Robbery Gone Bad In Which A Young Man Died

RELATED: 2A News: Miske Flinched when he met One Armed Citizen

read … Testimony ties Miske to deadly incident at Kailua tattoo shop

Hawaii legislators face deadline to avoid repeat of ‘chaos’

SA: … House and Senate legislators negotiating changes are under pressure to approve final bills by 6 p.m. tonight to avoid what Senate President Ron Kouchi called “the chaos” that surrounded the end of 2023’s session.

The 2024 Legislature adjourns in a week, on May 3.

As the 2023 session concluded, several bills abruptly died without explanation, and legislators openly complained that they were being asked to vote on measures they did not fully understand.

At Wednesday’s gathering of the Vegas Chamber Hawaii Business Exchange Summit at the Sheraton Waikiki, Ko­uchi said, “Last year there was so much chaos.” …

…veteran House Republican Gene Ward (Hawaii Kai-Kalama) remains unconvinced that what happened at the end of 2023 was an accident.

“Any confusion and chaos, planned or otherwise, is premeditated and to keep the public misinformed,” Ward said….

read … Hawaii legislators face deadline to avoid repeat of ‘chaos’

Solar Industry Panics as HECO's Bill To Gouge Customers For Wildfire Mitigation Has Stalled

CB: … Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Chair Jarrett Keohokalole announced Thursday morning he was deferring Senate Bill 2922 indefinitely, which normally would mean that the bill would die for this session.

But Green wrote to Keohokalole later in the day urging him to keep working on the issue over the weekend and into Monday if need be. The governor also offered to make his office available for meetings on the subject and indicated he is willing to join in the talks.

“This is a bill of enormous importance for our state,” Green wrote. “Our energy future and the stability and reliability of the utility is riding on this bill.”….

(TRANSLATION: The solar industry wants this bill to pass.)

The Future: Soaring PG&E power rates in 2024 approach Hawaii

Here’s Why:  Solar Schemers Can’t get Funding with HECO Bankruptcy Looming

read … HECO's Bill To Raise Money From Customers For Wildfire Mitigation Has Stalled

Lawmakers Vote To Provide More Than $800M In New Recovery Money For Maui

CB: … The new money for the Maui recovery will be in addition to the nearly $200 million Gov. Josh Green’s administration has already committed to the effort.

A conference committee of House and Senate members agreed to emergency appropriations totaling $362 million in new recovery funding contained in Senate Bill 582 for this fiscal year, and about $460 million more in Senate Bill 3068 that will be spent in the year that begins July 1….

This year’s funding bill authorizes the transfer of up to $72.5 million to the state Department of Human Services to cover housing and other costs that are ineligible for reimbursement by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency has said some families that were displaced by the fire and sheltered in West Maui hotels included undocumented immigrants and some people who were homeless before the fire.

The latest version of the bill requires that the $72.5 million in support for those people and families that FEMA will not cover must be matched by at least $40 million in private funds, said Sen. Troy Hashimoto.

Also included in SB 582 is $65 million for the One Ohana fund, which will pay compensation of up to $1.5 million for each fatality from the Lahaina fire provided that the victims’ surviving family members agree not to pursue wrongful death claims in court against the state or the other contributors to the fund….

Hawaii used to have a fire marshal, but the Legislature abolished the position in 1979 and replaced it with the volunteer State Fire Council, which includes the fire chiefs of the four counties. That left Hawaii as the only state without a fire marshal….

A state fire marshal also will help bridge a jurisdictional gap that has seen various state properties fail to meet the state or county fire codes, said Kauai Fire Department Chief Michael Gibson.

The Hawaii Department of Education has for years failed to meet fire codes in several schools in the past. But county fire prevention bureaus have been unable to enforce any action.

“A state fire marshal would stand behind us as the person of authority to enforce and have compliance,” Gibson said….

SB: About $1B arranged for Maui wildfire expenses

read … Lawmakers Vote To Provide More Than $800M In New Recovery Money For Maui

Makua Valley, Lualualei, Pohakuloa:  Military Lease Renegotiations Beginning Now

SA: … The leases expire in 2029, but negotiations for potential renewals will begin much sooner. In 2025 the Army will have to identify which lands it would like to renew leases on for training. Tokuda said “2025 is coming up fast and quick. So visits like this, conversations like this, are important to start them through that process of really prioritizing but also maybe taking a look at opportunities to remediate the return of certain areas.”

Lualualei is home to both a series of munitions storage facilities for both the Army and Navy as well as a pair of large radio towers that are critical for transmitting orders to submerged submarines using the very low frequency range.

But the military is moving munitions to the Navy’s West Loch Annex, as part of a long-term plan based on findings from a 1995 land-use study commissioned by then-U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye that found it would simplify logistics, put ordnance in newer facilities and require less transportation of explosive munitions on public roads.

As those efforts wind down, several advocates on the West side would like to see similar cultural access programs to those in Makua as well as the potential return of land — some of which was formerly set aside as Hawaiian homestead land before World War II.

Community members and state officials also have pushed for roadways in the Navy-controlled land to be opened up to the public as potential evacuation routes in the event of a tsunami, hurricane or wildfire. Many leeward communities lack pathways to higher ground. Particularly since the deadly 2023 wildfire that destroyed Lahaina, concerns over evacuation routes now loom large.

Navy officials said they are working with the Army and state officials to look at ways to improve and potentially widen the narrow road on the base into the mountains to make it a more effective evacuation route.

Capt. Mark Sohaney, commander of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, said, “The road is definitely expandable. … It can definitely expand to be better, to save more lives, you know, if that comes to pass; so we’re at a good point right now.”…

“‘I’ve asked that it be really looked at as a whole of defense negotiation, not parcel by parcel, not branch by branch,” Tokuda said. “We look at that there are places that they want to keep, and there’s places that we can return. And I think what I felt here was huge opportunities for us to find more of that balance point that the community is asking.”…

read … Officials meet, discuss Makua Valley military training sites

Hawaii taxpayers will cough up $18M for state workers’ mistakes, misbehavior

HNN: … Among the lawsuits against the prison system was a case of guards sexually assaulting inmates at the women’s facility. It led to a settlement of $2 million, but the Judiciary Committee voted to have the Department of Public Safety pay $800,000 of that out of its own budget.

In the case of DLNR Conservation Enforcement Officer (and son of HGEA President) Ethan Ferguson, who raped a girl at a state park, the committee said of the $1.25 million settlement, $500,000 should come out of the DLNR and Department of Human Resources budgets ….

Related: DLNR Finally Gets Around to Firing Rapist Cop Son of HGEA President

Related: Rape and Death: HB2340 pays $2.5M to Coverup Foster Care Disasters

read … Hawaii taxpayers will cough up $18M for state workers’ mistakes, misbehavior

Hawaii Pre-K Programs Reach Very Few Students

MN: … A new national report finds Hawaiʻi is one of only five states in the country to meet 10 of 10 research-based quality benchmarks for pre-K programs. However, the report finds the state ranks No. 44 in the nation for preschool enrollment for four-year-olds and No. 31 for three-year-olds.

The National Institute for Early Education Research released its annual State of Preschool report, which tracks preschool enrollment, funding, and quality across states. The 2023 State of Preschool Yearbook found that, in the 2022-2023 school year:

Hawaiʻi served 4% of the state’s four-year-olds and 1% of three-year-olds in state-funded preschool, for a total enrollment of 704 (an increase of 155 from the prior year).

State spending totaled $7,516,239, up $140,914 (2%), adjusted for inflation, since last year. 

State spending per child equaled $10,676 in 2022-2023, down $2,758 from 2021-2022, adjusted for inflation.

Hawaiʻi met 10 of 10 research-based quality standards benchmarks for minimum quality recommended by NIEER.

Hawaiʻi is one of only 16 states and the District of Columbia that has committed to universal preschool for four-year-olds, but the state currently ranks near the bottom in preschool access….

The full NIEER report is available online….

read … Hawaiʻi state funded preschool tops quality rankings

DOE loses $54M on meal services

KHON: … The Hawaii Department of Education serves up about 18.5 million meals per year to students. However, the DOE’S Food Services Branch is projecting a $20 million shortfall for fiscal year 2024. The DOE cites inflation for milk and food, insufficient federal meal reimburements and unchanged school meal prices….“We are going through a rift, because the meal counts have gone down in certain schools and as a result we no longer can carry that expense,” said Curt Otaguro, Hawaii Department of Education Deputy Superintendent of Operations.

The DOE said, during the 2018-19 school year, food and milk costs were $40.4 million and in 2022-23 it skyrocketed to over $67.1 million. The DOE adds, the current meal prices and federal reimbursement rates are just not enough to cover costs. Now, it’s asking for $20 million in emergency funding from the Legislature.

“We haven’t increased school lunch fees in a while. We’re looking at offsetting some of that even though it’s a challenging time to do such a thing, but we need to mitigate. Some of our losses are in excess of $54 million now,” Otaguro said….

Meanwhile, the USDA will conduct a school meal cost study for the 2024-25 school year to consider higher reimbursement rates for the state.

read  … DOE: $20 million shortfall in meal services due to inflation, unchanged meal prices

MJ Biz: Green will act administratively to boost dispensary business by easing ‘medical’ marijuana access

HNN: … Gov. Josh Green learned of the bill’s failure during a TV interview with a Hawaii News Now program.

Then he told the Honolulu-based Spotlight Now show of “a possible solution:” Changing the state’s medical marijuana rules to make cannabis available for any health condition, although a doctor-approved registration card still would be required.

“This would make (marijuana) very available … for those who choose it in their lives and still keep kids safe, which is everyone’s priority,” Green said.

According to Hawaii News Now, “The governor hopes his compromise can be done without legislative action, although if the Health Department has to change its rules, that process can still take many months.”

Green said he believes adult-use marijuana should be legal.

However, he did not commit to launching a new recreational cannabis legalization attempt next year.

MEANWHILE:  Potent New Cannabis Products Can Present Hazards For Adolescents

read … Hawaii governor suggests easing medical cannabis access (mjbizdaily.com)

Dozens of mental health workers at Kahi Mohala soon to be out of jobs

KITV: …  Dozens of adults with mental illness have already been transferred out of Kahi Mohala in anticipation of the sale to Queen's Health System.

In a letter on Wednesday, Sutter Health told employees: "In preparation for this transfer, forensic services will no longer be offered at Kahi Mohala."

"…But now as far as getting inpatient care, inpatient services, those resources are going to be very limited now," a Kahi Mohala employee told Island News.

"Mental health is really important and in the community I come from it's something that people don't talk about," the worker said.

The employee told Island News that about half of the couple hundred workers at Kahi Mohala will be let go.

The Hawaii Teamsters union said it has 80 members working at the facility, but not all of them will be affected. There are also about 50 nurses with the Hawaii Nurses Association….

The sale's expected to be completed by the end of the year….

HNN: Queen’s Health System signs letter of intent to acquire West Oahu psychiatric hospital

read … Dozens of mental health workers at Kahi Mohala soon to be out of jobs

Beach park closure in Hawaii sparks concerns over homeless: “there’s a lot of garbage”

CN: … Kaho’onei fixes and trades discarded objects with others in the encampment …  on the 58-acre stretch at Ulehawa Beach Park…

Despite daily visits by outreach workers for two weeks, about a dozen homeless people at the Depots Beach encampment struggled to leave in time for the scheduled cleanup. Some cited disabilities and a lack of resources as reasons for their delay. 

(CLUE: ‘Methamphetamines.’)

Ulehawa Beach Park has been home to a homeless encampment for over a decade. The stabbing death of a 62-year-old man in the area in December brought renewed focus to cleaning up the park. 

(CLUE: ‘Methamphetamines.’)

Bradford Mercado, a man living in a single tent on the beach, said the city's cleanup efforts have become more frequent and less regulated over time.

"I've been here for seven, eight years," Mercado said. "When they come, they don't take the rubbish, they take your stuff and leave the rubbish."

(CLUE: ‘Methamphetamines.’)

While he acknowledged the trash problem on the beach, Mercado argued that displacing native Hawaiians further up the beach fails to address the root issues driving homelessness across the state,

“The problem is, there’s a lot of garbage people leave behind or people live with, I mean look around. Yeah, a lot of garbage on the beaches, especially right here. But they’re not doing their job, there’s ways for doing that, and this is not the way,” he said….

(CLUE: ‘Methamphetamines.’)  

KHON: A recovering addict comes clean, surviving multiple overdoses and getting sober | KHON2

read … Beach park closure in Hawaii sparks concerns over homeless displacement

Navy swarm team says water test show no fuel from Red Hill spills

HNN: …  recent detections of TPH at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam spiked from 10 to 60 percent of roughly 8,500 samples So the Navy brought in a swarm team of experts to examine the concerning ‘uptick.’ They said false positives were because of chlorine which is added to disinfect the water.

Now under a new state approved test called MEQ method, the Navy says TPH detections dropped to 6 out of 658 or .09%.

During a news conference Hawaii News Now asked if 6 of the samples have some sort of fuel component in it.

“No. It does not,” said Chris Waldron, Swarm Team member, Navy Closure Task Force - Red Hill.

He says the laboratory confirmed that those ‘6 detections were associated with the sample containers and those containers have a cap on them.’

“They can tell by doing a review of the chromatagram which shows that those are not fuel related.

Lawyers preparing for Monday’s Red Hill trial in federal court in Honolulu representing 7,500 say they don’t believe the Navy’s testing….

Big Q: What do you think of the Navy’s explanation of false positives in recent Red Hill water sampling? 

CN: Victims of Navy jet fuel contamination in Hawaii seek justice | Courthouse News Service

SA: Petroleum results in Red Hill water came from lab tests, Navy finds

SAS: Chemical quirk in Hawaii tap-water test led to hundreds of false positives for petroleum

M: Trial to Begin for Military Families Suing over Hawaii Water Contamination | Military.com

read … Navy swarm team says water test show no fuel from Red Hill spills

Lahaina Fire News:

Legislative Agenda:

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