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Wednesday, May 1, 2024
May 1, 2024 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 7:46 PM :: 1267 Views

OHA Above the Law? One Trustee Says 'No'

Unclaimed: Over $15 million in Tax Credits for Low Income Households

Wealth by Association? How Social Networks Drive Inequality in Hawaii

SB2845: No Right to Keep and Bear Ammunition under Age 21

Nine Months Later: State Finally Begins Building Housing for Lahaina Survivors

Hawaii AG releases firearm registration statistics

DOH rejects Navy’s Red Hill consolidated groundwater sampling plan

Tourist Spending and Arrivals Down for March

After Refusing FEMA Trailers, State to pay $56M monthly hotel bill

CB: … FEMA plans to stop reimbursing the state for emergency housing in hotels after May 10 but the governor expects several hundred likely will be staying there through at least July 1….

While progress is being made on these two projects — and on FEMA’s 169-unit group housing site in Lahaina that is expected to break ground within days — it will not be fast enough to meet the state’s July 1 deadline for people to vacate pricey hotels that were set up as emergency shelters following the fires.

As of Monday, 1,830 fire survivors in 725 households and their 159 pets were still housed in the hotel program run by the American Red Cross at a cost of about $56 million a month, Green said. That’s down 76% since the program’s peak, when 3,017 households were living in hotels.

On May 10, unless there is another deadline extension, FEMA will end its reimbursement for federally eligible people in this program, leaving the state to pick up the tab.

The state and FEMA disagree about how many of the remaining 725 households are eligible for FEMA assistance. FEMA has the number at about 135, while the state believes it should be about 400, Green said….

With the group housing sites months away from being ready at best, officials are continuing to try and place people in homes made available through FEMA’s direct-lease program.

As of Monday, 835 households had moved into them, but 500 secured properties remain vacant, said Curtis Brown, FEMA’s deputy federal coordinating officer. Fire survivors have turned down units for being too far away from West Maui where they live and work….

SA: New housing projects give hope to some Maui fire survivors

read … Officials Tout Progress On Maui Housing Projects For Fire Survivors As Funding Deadlines Loom

Blackouts are Part of HECO Fire Safety Plan

SA: … Hawaiian Electric Co. is preparing to roll out its plan for proactive power shutdowns for areas at high risk for wildfires during extreme weather.

A so-called Public Safety Power Shutoff is when a utility “cuts power to electrical lines as a measure of last resort in the interest of public safety,” according to a presentation Opens in a new tab by Erik Taka­yesu, a former senior vice president for asset strategy and planning for Southern California Edison, at Hawaiian Electric’s first-ever Wildfire Safety Symposium in Hilo on April 10-11.

“While PSPS may reduce the risk of utility-associated wildfires, PSPS events can leave communities and essential facilities without power, which brings its own risks and hardships,” read Takayesu’s first slide. “Some areas that are prone to dry windy conditions may experience higher frequency of PSPS events.”…

“PSPS events may be triggered by a red (or yellow) flag warning that indicate high fire risk conditions. Notifications are made to public safety partners and customers when a PSPS event is imminent and underway,” according to Hawaiian Electric’s presentation. “Utilities and strategic partners and stakeholders can work together to minimize the impacts of PSPS. Power is restored once lines are patrolled after fire threat subsides.” ….

VIDEO: Presentation

read … Hawaiian Electric readies plan for cutting power during wildfire risks | Honolulu Star-Advertiser (staradvertiser.com)

Lawmakers Rejected A Bill To Bail Out HECO. Now What?

CB: … HECO’s continuing push for the new credit line follows a failed bid for legislative approval that would have given HECO the ability to issue up to $2.5 billion in low-interest bonds secured by a new fee on customers. HECO’s chief executive, Shelee Kimura, testified that bond proceeds would be used to pay into a wildfire mitigation fund for infrastructure, a no-fault self-insurance “wildfire relief fund” and “if needed as a last resort for settling claims” related to the August fires.

Kimura also said that if lawmakers rejected those bills, “then we don’t have a whole lot of options on financing unless we can settle the litigation.”

But key legislators were not persuaded, and HECO’s bills stalled. Now what HECO calls its “A/R facility” — referring to accounts receivable — may be the company’s best option.

“An A/R facility is the most efficient and lowest cost form of financing reasonably available to the Hawaiian Electric Companies at this time,” the company said in its application. “In light of Hawaiian Electric’s current credit rating, the Companies are unable to access commercial paper markets or other unsecured financing.” 

With the potential for bankruptcy lurking, HECO is planning to run the accounts receivables and credit line through a “bankruptcy remote” special purpose entity to protect lenders.

“The purpose of the bankruptcy remote SPE is to reduce the risk to lenders in the event the Companies are subject to a future restructuring,” the company said in its application. “In an event of default and other specified conditions, the lenders have the ability to ‘sweep’ cash collections from the A/R to pay off outstanding loan principal, interest and fees.” ….

HPR: State Sen. Keohokalole talks HECO securitization, bankruptcy concerns

Related: Taxpayers Not on the Hook for HECO's $542M 'Special Purpose Revenue Bonds'

read … Lawmakers Rejected A Bill To Bail Out HECO. Now What? - Honolulu Civil Beat

Honolulu Fires Back in Bid to Save Climate Suit

BBL: … Energy company attempts to circumvent a Hawaii high court ruling should fail on jurisdictional errors alone, according to a US Supreme Court brief filed by the city and county of Honolulu on Wednesday.

Oil companies—including Sunoco LP, Aloha Petroleum Ltd., and Exxon Mobil Corp.—have launched a petition that fails on numerous levels relating to whether the case is even ready to be heard by the Supreme Court, according to opposition levied by the Hawaiian municipalities.

Not only do justices not have authority to review the Hawaiian Supreme Court’s interlocutory decision, but the questions raised are still pending in ...

read … Honolulu Fires Back at Industry Bid to Thwart Climate Ruling

Red Hill fuel spread through water quickly, expert testifies

SA: … Water system experts testified Tuesday on the second day of a class-action lawsuit against the U.S. government that tests may have missed contamination in the critical early days of the Red Hill fuel crisis. ….

Government lawyers have argued that the amount of jet fuel that entered the water system was relatively low — too low to make most people sick — and that many people who reported symptoms weren’t exposed to fuel at all. They argue the ailments reported by thousands of people were stress-induced from hearing about contaminated water rather than from the contaminated water itself….

Hughes said that no bailer samples were taken from the Navy’s water system before the Navy shut down the Red Hill water well Nov. 29. He said that means potential contamination may have been missed because jet fuel is a light nonaqueous phase liquid — or LNAP — meaning it is less dense than water and tends to rise to the surface.

Hughes argued that low-flow sampling could have missed fuel closer to the water’s surface, which would have been captured by bailer sampling. He also said the higher concentrations likely would have been found in samples that did find contamination if those tests had been conducted earlier.

Under cross-examination from the government’s attorneys, Hughes acknowledged that not all the fuel that spilled into the Red Hill water well made it into the Navy’s drinking water system. The lawyers cited the accounts of Navy divers who were sent into the well as part of the response who reported that fuel was still seeping from the lava rock into the water well after the Navy shut it off from its water distribution system….

SAS: Retired Navy diver testifies on family’s travails with tainted Hawaii water

read … Red Hill fuel spread through water quickly, expert testifies

Beware: Mercado Kim and Co Control Board of Regents

SA: … In an April 17 Honolulu Star-Advertiser commentary, writing in their capacities as individuals, University of Hawaii Board of Regents Gabriel Lee, Neil Abercrombie and Lauren Akitake went out of their way to claim they are not unduly influenced by legislators (“UH not unduly swayed by Legislature,” Island Voices). This insulted the intelligence of many UH faculty.

Claiming to be advocates of responsible fiscal management and open communication, the authors explained it is not unfair or improper for them to welcome questions about the UH administration from elected officials, and that UH administrators are obligated to provide straightforward explanations on how public funds are being used….

Based on their own admission, we must be mindful that email and text messages from legislators are shaping the direction and tone of Board of Regents activities and actions. All those who care about the UH, academic freedom, research and quality teaching must be much more vigilant to safeguard the university. Every proposed action and decision of the Board of Regents must now be heavily scrutinized….

Our concerns as faculty are based on what we observed in a Senate informational meeting held earlier in the legislative session. The UH administration came prepared to present their budget requests for the year, but the entire meeting was derailed by certain senators intent on exposing alleged mismanagement of Hale Noelani, a dorm on the Manoa campus that has not been in use because of its deteriorating condition. Certain senators seemed appalled at the situation.

The subject dominated news headlines, but no one, including those on the Board of Regents, noted that an audit of UH dormitories conducted in 2007 — more than 15 years earlier — revealed a great need for maintenance. Sen. Donna Kim, who has been the chair of the Senate Committee on Higher Education since 2019, did nothing to address this issue….

BACKGROUND: The Secret History of the Mercado Kim Crime Family

read … Column: After fiascos, keep tabs on UH regents | Honolulu Star-Advertiser (staradvertiser.com)

Ex-Honolulu Investigator Tells Jury He Swore To Facts In Theft Case He Had ‘No Idea’ About 

CB: … Vernon Branco’s title in the Honolulu prosecuting attorney’s office was investigator, but he apparently did very little investigating in the theft case against Laurel Mau….

Jacob Delaplane, a deputy prosecutor at the time, tried to file charges with the court based entirely on information provided by Sheri Tanaka, then an attorney for Mitsunaga’s firm. Delaplane testified on Monday that a judge rejected that filing because it lacked the backing of a law enforcement officer, so Delaplane asked Branco to step in.

On the stand Tuesday, Branco said Delaplane wrote a declaration describing Branco’s ostensible investigation into Mitsunaga & Associates’ claims, and Branco signed it, swearing under penalty of perjury that it was true.

But in reality, there was practically no investigation, according to Branco.

“I went over it really quick and then signed it,” he said ….

On Tuesday, jurors also heard from Rick Sing, an attorney who represented Mau during her theft case. He testified that during his own investigation of the matter, he discovered that Mitsunaga & Associates employees who had attested to Mau’s theft were campaign donors to Kaneshiro.

Those individuals — Mitsunaga, Aaron Fujii, Chad McDonald and Terri Ann Otani — are some of the criminal defendants now on trial….

read … Ex-Honolulu Investigator Tells Jury He Swore To Facts In Theft Case He Had ‘No Idea’ About

‘Exonerated’ convicts miss out on Big Payday because no Judge says they are ‘actually innocent’

HNN: … In January 2023, Albert Ian Schweitzer was cleared after 23 years in prison for the rape and murder of Dana Ireland on the Big Island. The judge vacated the conviction and ruled if there was another trial today, Schweitzer and his co-defendants would have been acquitted.

Schweitzer’s attorneys plan to file a lawsuit over violation of his civil rights by Big Island police and prosecutors, but also filed for over $1 million in compensation for his wrongful incarceration.

…there is a big catch in the law: It requires that the former defendant was “actually innocent” of the crime, which so far no judge or prosecutor has been willing to say….

The state Attorney General did offer to settle Schweitzer’s claim for $800,000, but only if Schweitzer dropped his lawsuit over civil rights violations….

read … ‘Do the right thing’: Hawaii wrongful imprisonment law isn’t working for 2 in high-profile cases

Hawaii Dems decide not to Appeal -- RFK Jr. wins ballot access fight in Hawaii

KITV: … The Democratic party of Hawaii will not appeal the decision to allow independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy is to appear on the Hawaii ballot this November. 

It was also announced that RFK Jr qualified for the California state ballot this month, as well as Michigan. The State of Utah was first to grant the independent candidate ballot access earlier this year. 

Locally on Oahu, Kennedy's supporters had to win a challenge, issued by the Democratic Party of Hawaii before the Office of Elections. Tuesday afternoon Island News learned, from Chair Adrian Tam, that the Democratic Party of Hawaii "does not intend to appeal" that decision….

Getting an independent candidate on the Hawaii state ballot takes thousands of signatures. However, by starting a political party-- the number of required signatured were reduced from 10,000 to 862.

"We collected over 3,000. So we got that 862-- and we still have a buffer," 'We the People Party' Hawaii Chair Kimberly Haine told Island News, "They did not challenge the petition. They instead tried to challenge the validity of our officers and our bylaws." ….

Background: Office of Elections: RFK Jr. will appear on Hawaii ballot

read … RFK Jr. wins ballot access fight in Hawaii

Money Laundering Notebook reveals cash payments for construction work on Miske’s luxury Portlock home

ILIND: … Cabael said Kamaaina would get advance notice when state inspectors were coming. They would conceal the unregulated jobs, and would temporarily move chemicals outdoors into open air storage, then move them back inside when regulators left….

And for two or three years, from 2012-2015, Cabael served as foreman of a construction crew working on Miske’s luxury home on Lumahai Street in Portlock. There were usually 6-9 workers per week at Lumahai, and he served as a site superintendent for 5-6 hours a day while working at Kamaaina Termite. Cabael said he made cash payments to contractors and construction workers, and kept a ledger of all payments “from day 1.”

“Every time I paid someone in cash, I wrote it in the ledger,” Cabael testified, eventually paying out over $1 million in such payments.

Cabael said the cash came from Miske on Thursday or Friday of each week. Jason Yokoyama, manager of Miske’s M Nightclub and one of Miske’s co-defendants in the racketeering case, admitted that he made weekly deliveries of cash to Miske in large brown envelopes.

“These weekly deliveries were sometimes in excess of $10,000 each,” according to Yokoyama’s written plea agreement filed in federal court at the end of 2023….

PDF: Notebook of Alfredo Cabael with notes on construction details and cash payments | PDF (scribd.com)

read … Notebook reveals cash payments for construction work on Miske’s luxury Portlock home

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