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Thursday, April 12, 2018
April 12, 2018 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 10:55 PM :: 3392 Views

Kauai County Sues Opioid Manufacturers

Caldwell Ordered to Repay Military Personnel After Illegally Seizing Their Cars

End of Session: House Republican Bills Still Alive

Does Your State Tax Manufacturing Machinery?

PEW: Hawaii, Alaska More Middle Class Than Most     

Nomination of Mark Bennett Shows Limits Of Outside Group Influence On Judges

Senate Panel Endorses Jill Otake for Bench in Hawaii

Thirty Meter Telescope deadline Pushed Back to November

SA: The TMT International Observatory board, which for months has been saying it would decide by April whether to build the Thirty Meter Telescope in Hawaii, is meeting at its Pasadena headquarters this week with an announcement expected Friday.

Don’t be surprised if the announcement is a postponement of the decision.

Newspapers in Spain and the Canary Islands — home to TMT’s backup site — last month reported that members of the TMT governing board assured local officials that the decision about where to build the $1.4 billion observatory would be delayed until November.

That would allow time for legal proceedings to play out in Hawaii and for construction permits to be approved for a summit on La Palma island, local astronomy officials told La Opinion de Tenerife, a daily newspaper in the Canary Islands.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Kai Kahele (D, Hilo) said last month that TMT officials told him their deadline is actually more like late summer or early fall, apparently based on the need to offer assurances to Japan, which is a partner in the Mauna Kea project.

“They would need safe access to the mountain no later than September 2018 or they’re really going to start looking for another location,” Kahele said….

Richard Naiwieha Wurdeman, attorney for the Mauna Kea Hui petitioners, said, “As a result of these self-serving and unmet deadlines that have been imposed by the foreign partners of TMT, the Legislature already has been distracted once again in working on legislation dealing with Mauna Kea when it could have been more focused on issues this session involving homelessness, domestic violence, education, and other critical issues facing our community.”

(Translation: Wurdeman is against all of the Mauna Kea anti-telescope bills in the legislature because he too is all about the rent money.)

read … Thirty Meter Telescope deadline not set

HSTA Property Tax Slush Fund will Squeeze Counties

PBN: A bill to amend Hawaii’s state constitution to allow the Legislature to create a new "surcharge" on residential investment properties in the Islands to generate revenue for public schools is headed to conference committee, despite warnings that it could negatively impact county budgets, renters and the overall state economy.

Senate Bill 2922 passed its third reading in the House Tuesday and was sent back to the Senate. Since the bill was amended, conferees from both chambers will likely be appointed to hammer out the differences before final passage.

If passed, SB2922 would place a question on the November ballot asking voters, “Shall the Legislature be authorized to establish, as provided by law, a surcharge on investment real property to be used to support public education?” ….

“…this particular tax hits particularly hard on renters who will be paying it via their investor owners.”

Goodale, who is president of Clark Realty Corp. on the Big Island, noted that real estate investors are already paying higher real property taxes to the counties.

“The investors, they disappear if it is no longer profitable for them to invest, which is not good for renters,” he said. “We need that inventory.”…

Big Island Mayor Harry Kim also testified that “impinging on the counties’ singular source of income would be devastating to us.”

Kim noted that 74 percent of Hawaii County’s revenue is from property tax.

“A surcharge on residential investment properties would obviously limit county options and make it even more difficult to balance our budgets,” he said. “Therefore, we have to jealously guard this taxing authority, and ask that you not break this bright line of separation.”….

read … Taxing Hawaii real estate investors to pay for public schools could have negative effects

Harry Kim renews push for GET Hike after Caldwell-style ‘recalculation’

HTH: …Kim announced Wednesday the surcharge would bring in $50 million annually, rather than the previously forecast $25 million. The difference is because of more accurate calculations by the state Department of Taxation stemming from new (enter excuse here) ….

“I consider this (massive tax hike) a gift to the people of Hawaii Island,” Kim said during an interview (he then began giggling uncontrollably as worried-looking aides hustled him away from the microphones…)

Kim is scheduled to address the council Tuesday when he kicks off three days of its department-by-department review of programs and the budget.

The council, with an apparent majority opposed to the GET measure, in February postponed consideration of Bill 102 until no later than May 5. This allowed the March 31 deadline imposed by the state Legislature to run out.

But a bill making its way through the Legislature would extend the deadline to enact a GET surcharge until June 30. In addition, House Bill 2587 allows up to 40 percent of the money to be used for non-transportation projects and up to 2 percent for private roadways that are used by the public.

Puna Councilwoman Jen Ruggles, whose district includes many of the private roads used by the public, has been asking for more resources for her district since she took office in 2016. But she still opposes a GET increase, she said.

“Considering taking care of our private roads is long overdue,” Ruggles said. “However, this tax is still regressive, still taxes food and medicine, and still hurts those who can least afford it.”

Ruggles said taxes should target those who can afford to pay more.

The Senate approved HB 2587 with a minor change Tuesday. All the pieces could come together at the last minute, with the Legislature set to conclude its business May 3 and the mayor required to submit his final proposed budget by May 5….

read … Mayor renews push for GET after recalculation shows surcharge would generate $50 million, not $25 million

State Agribusiness Dev Corp: $261M Agency Claims Too Busy To Be Audited

CB: …When the Legislature proposed steering funds for papaya research to a state agency in charge of helping diversify Hawaii agriculture, the agency’s executive director in February strongly supported the proposal.

Just two months later, the head of the Hawaii Agribusiness Development Corp. says he doesn’t support the papaya bill after all — even though he says it would benefit the papaya industry.

The reason: Lawmakers have tacked an audit requirement onto the measure….

the organization is something of a black box when it comes to public information. Legislators frequently request the state auditor to audit agencies for a variety of reasons — only a few are audited automatically.

Senate Bill 3087 has moved out of the House and is expected to head to conference committee.

“It’s exploding in size and scope,” Rep. Richard Creagan, a Hawaii Island lawmaker who wants the audit, said of the ADC. “If you’re going to do this stuff, the public has a right to know, to see how it’s operating, where this money is going.”

“The ADC has been in operation for a number of years,” said Rep. Cynthia Thielen. “It’s never really demonstrated to the Legislature what it has accomplished or hasn’t accomplished with the money it has received and the authority that it has.”…

The four-person office has broad powers, including the ability to buy and hold land and water resources and conduct market research. Over the last five years alone, state budget information shows, the Legislature has appropriated more than a quarter of a billion dollars to the ADC, including about $23.4 million for operations and another $238 million for capital investments.

But it’s not clear to lawmakers where that money has gone.

The ADC has not been submitting annual reports to the Legislature as required by its enabling statute.

Although the ADC has done planning reports required by a different law, known as Act 100, the act doesn’t require financial statements. In addition, Myra Kaichi, a former deputy attorney general who serves as the ADC’s senior executive assistant, acknowledged the planning reports submitted by ADC don’t actually contain all of the information required by Act 100.

Information on the ADC’s website, meanwhile, is woefully out of date….

Kaichi said two of the ADC’s bigger projects are the Waiahole Irrigation System on Oahu, which it acquired in 1999, and the Whitmore Project, an ambitious plan to create an agriculture zone in Wahiawa anchored by 1,200 acres owned by the ADC….

In addition to the papaya measure, Senate Bill 2522 would set up an agriculture business accelerator and let the agency invest money into agriculture companies in exchange for a 1 percent to 6 percent equity stake…. 

HTH: Gut and replace strikes again: Ag initiatives, potential ADC audit intertwine

read … State Agribusiness Agency Says It’s Too Busy To Be Audited

Housing and homelessness: Let’s stick with what works

SA: …The Hawaii Legislature is at a critical juncture as various bills addressing housing and homelessness enter their final stage. Much of the attention has been focused on so-called “ohana zone” proposals, the definition of which no one seems to agree on. The “ohana zones” that some lawmakers are describing seem similar to safe zones, which are not safe and don’t work. We think it’s time for the Legislature to focus on what we know does work and truly helps our vulnerable homeless citizens and the community as a whole….

the University of Hawaii’s evaluation of the city’s Housing First program showed that 89 percent of clients remained in housing after two years. In addition, 64 percent were less likely to visit an emergency room and 61 percent less likely to be arrested. It is estimated that an unsheltered homeless person costs the community $40,000 to $80,000 annually, while Housing First costs between $20,000 to $30,000 per person, per year….

As state and city government continues to address the creation of more affordable housing, one of the most promising approaches is public-private partnerships, as seen recently in Kahauiki Village. On Jan. 12, 30 homeless families (114 individuals, including 64 children) moved into their own homes complete with kitchens and bathrooms and were no longer counted among the homeless population.

The initial, first phase of the project took six months and one day to complete, from groundbreaking to move-in. When the full array of 153 units is completed, the cost per unit will be less than $130,000, including infrastructure….

read … Housing and homelessness: Let’s stick with what works

Council Leaders, Mayor Caldwell Will Talk With Feds In DC About Rail Funding

CB: …Honolulu Council Chair Ernie Martin and Budget Chair Trevor Ozawa, who proposed big cuts in the city budget to raise rail funds, will travel with the mayor to the Capitol….

read … Council Leaders, Mayor Caldwell Will Talk With Feds In DC About Rail Funding

HB1911: Close complicated loophole for kupuna care facilities

HNN: There are approximately 1,700 legal licensed care facilities serving 12,300 residents (all registered to vote) in Hawaii. But case managers estimate there are more than 300 other unlicensed care homes in Honolulu alone, which the Department of Health has no oversight over….

(And they ALL vote their patients so legislators are afraid.)

House Bill 1911 would authorize the Department of Health to investigate care facilities reported to be operating without a license and allow penalties for violations.

The current law states if health care is provided in a home to someone who is not a family member, a license is required. However, a growing number of homeowners claim to rent to elders while health care is provided by a contracted agency, so they say they don't need a license.

Leading lawmakers say that can be dangerous.

"These unlicensed care homes do not have any training or experience for caregivers, there's no criminal background checks, they can be a murder or rapist and care for people," said Rep. John Mizuno, Chair of the Health & Human Services Committee.

Case managers told lawmakers if HB1911 does not pass, it will send a strong message to the public that it is OK to be unlicensed.

“A lot of our foster homes are saying, once this bill doesn't pass, I'm gonna close my home and open unlicensed. Because why not? They don't have to carry insurance," case manager Elsa Talavera said…..

HPR: House Targets Illegal, Unlicensed Care Homes

read … New bill looks to close complicated loophole for kupuna care facilities

Oahu farmland purchased by state in 2013 site of massive dump site

HNN: …In 2012, the state Agribusiness Development Corp. paid $13 million for 1,200 acres of former Galbraith Estate lands in Wahiawa….

The idea behind the purchase, according to the state, was to preserve some of the most productive agricultural land in Hawaii and help make the state less dependent on imported food.

Nearly six years later, most of the property is still fallow. What's growing instead is an illegal junkyard that better resembles a bumper crop of derelict cars, trailers and rubble….

Drone video shot by Cox shows more than 70 cars lined up along a pathway though the fields, which are located across Kamehameha Highway from Camp Poamoho. More than double that amount lies hidden under trees and overgrowth….

We approached the man who we're told is in charge of the scrap yard. He didn't want to answer questions on camera but did say the many of vehicles came from another highly visible illegal dump site on Kaukonahua Road, which is being cleaned up. He said he plans to remove the cars soon.

The state Agribusiness Development Corp., which owns the land, said it has been trying to get rid of the derelict cars and squatters for years.

The ADC tells Hawaii News Now that gates and other barriers that the agency has erected since 2012 have either been removed or destroyed.

But Cox blames the state for the problem. Since the land has been vacant for so long, it has attracted squatters and illegal dumping, he said.

Sources said the state has had trouble attracting tenants because the farm land doesn't have enough water. Irrigation water is available on just 500 of the 1,200 acres owned by the ADC.

The state agency said it is negotiating easements to deliver water on the remaining 700 acres. That deal is expected to be finalized by the end of the year.

Right now, ADC spends about $200,000 a year on security but it's mostly to secure its water pumps. Dela Cruz said lawmakers want to add $1 million to the agency's budget for security and to fight invasive species…..

read … Oahu farmland purchased by state in 2013 site of massive dump site

Child Abuse: Parents Inflict 14 Years of Homelessness on Child

HNN: …60 homeless youth from Wahiawa, Waipahu and Kalihi came together Wednesday to put their lives on display for service providers and lawmakers.

The attendees included Tiare Talo, a 16-year-old who — like most teens her age — has dreams of a successful future.

"I want to go to college," she said.

But for her to get there she's going to have to put in a lot more effort than most her classmates.

Talo has bounced in and out of homelessness since she was 2 years old and is currently living in a park with her family.

"It's like a roller coaster," Talo said….

With the help of Adult Friends for Youth, Sykap got off the streets, graduated from high school, and now has a job and a place to stay.  She and others shared their personal stories of life inside an encampment.

"It was like racist yea. Micronesians over here. Samoans, Hawaiians, Filipinos on this side," said Sykap. "In the middle of our sleep they would try to beat us up."

Talo added, "It's kind of scary when people that don't live there come and do bad stuff. They're like the bullies and we're like the little minor people."

Organizers say one of the main takeaways from the event is that if given an opportunity to do better, most kids will take it….

C&CH: 04/12/18 Pilot project to secure closed park facilities begins

read … 'I want to go to college': Homeless youth gather to talk about their dreams — and challenges

Solar Hot Water: Green Energy Scammers Grub for Money—Demand Cold Showers for Hilo Residents

PBN: …House Bill 1864, which passed its third reading in the Senate on Tuesday, would amend the state’s solar water heater mandate by closing a suspected loophole in the variance process through clarifying the definition of renewable energy technology systems and in what instances variance applications are accepted for demand water heater devices….

Since the enactment of the law, the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism has received more than 5,900 variance requests as of April 6. The vast majority of those have been approved, with Blue Planet Foundation putting the approval rate at more than 98 percent….

Hawaii Gas, a beneficiary of the high percentage of granted variances, opposes the bill, saying it “places an additional administrative and financial burden on citizens who do not have access to the electric grid.” The Honolulu-based gas utility pointed out that two-thirds of all approved variances were for the east side of Hawaii’s Big Island. Hawaii Gas said that gas-powered, instantaneous water heaters are often the only available water resource for those remote (AND CLOUDY) locations…..

…solar hot water systems will cost $4,000‐$8,000, while demand water heater systems cost $800‐$2000….

read … Another attempt to close Hawaii’s alleged solar water heater loophole

Electric buses showcase state's commitment to Help Al Gore Profit Even More from Global Warming scam

KHON ….A demonstration at Iolani Palace Wednesday showcased buses that could be considered when the state looks to implement passenger shuttles between the terminal and rental car facility at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport later this year.

The vehicles were made by BYD Company Ltd., the world’s largest electric vehicle manufacturer, and Proterra Inc., which has tested its zero-emissions electric battery buses on Oahu and Maui.

“I strongly support initiatives that bring us closer to reaching our sustainable energy goals,” said Governor David Ige. “The use of alternative energy vehicles on Hawaii roads and at our state’s busiest airport is a step in the right direction.”

read … Electric buses showcase state's commitment to

15% of Kauai Electricity From Murdering Trees

KGI: …albizia is used as fuel for the Green Energy Team biomass plant. The company employs just under 40 people and Kauai Island Utility Cooperative buys power from Green Energy Team under a 20-year contract.

The trees grow fast and reach about 120 feet tall. First introduced in 1917 as a reforestation project, 125,000 of them were planted in the first half of the 20th century on land that had been previously damaged by cattle.

Now, about 15 percent of Kauai’s electricity comes from burning the trees, and the charcoal is made into fertilizer.

read … Tree Huggers Become Tree Choppers

Maui: Criminals Not Happy in Jail

MT:  …Maui Community Correctional Center (MCCC) is a powder keg. It’s been overcrowded for many years, and right now more than 400 inmates live in a space updated to hold just 301. What’s more, the prison itself isn’t the the best of shape. Back in September we reported that the prison’s fire control system has been a mess for years–and won’t be completely fixed at least until the end of this year. But the prison’s problems go beyond even that.

This sounds amazing, but more than a dozen locks within MCCC’s modules simply don’t work properly anymore. “There are 15 locks that require manual operation,” Toni Schwartz, Hawaii Department of Public Safety’s public information officer, said in an Apr. 11 email. “The repairing and replacing of these locks is being addressed.”

Living in such an environment can be bad enough, but when new problems start cropping up involving inmates’ phone, television and food, tensions can boil over. That seems to be what happened at the prison’s Module A on the afternoon of Monday, Apr. 9…..

read … Inmate frustrations boil over at Maui Community Correctional Center

MPD employees disciplined for violations

MN: …Maui Police Department employees were disciplined with suspensions ranging from one to 10 days for violations sustained in 16 cases last year, according to an MPD report to the state Legislature….

Police reported a charge of misconduct was sustained for use of drugs based on an officer’s positive drug test in May. In December, the officer was suspended for 10 days, ordered to complete an employer-approved treatment program and transferred out of a specialized unit, according to the report.

The number of sustained violations that resulted in suspensions or firings increased in 2017, compared to nine such violations that MPD reported to the Legislature for 2016.

MPD also reported 45 deployments of Tasers in 2017….

Other reported suspensions included:

• Seven days for an officer involved in a physical altercation while off duty in November 2016. …

• One day for denying escort to someone to retrieve belongings as part of a court order for protection in August 2016….

read … MPD employees disciplined for violations

Ethics: Convicted Felon Elle Cochran Warned After Scoring Lots of Free Tickets

MN: …Maui Jim Maui Invitational swag, tickets worth thousands of dollars….

While the board has found no violations with the gifts to date, Gadarian called for an investigation into the reasons behind the gifts that include a swag bag and difficult-to-obtain tickets.

Could the gifts be a “reward for behavior?” she asked at Wednesday’s board meeting.

“What generates this generosity?” she asked….

“The tournament has traditionally offered tickets and tokens of appreciation to many stakeholders and supporters, including elected officials in Maui County,” an email statement from KemperLesnik said Wednesday. “This is a common practice with events throughout the country.”…

Council Member Elle Cochran, who reported $100 worth of gifts in a swag bag….

Since receiving the cautionary letter from the board in 2016, Cochran said she began thinking twice about accepting tournament tickets. She has not accepted tickets since 2015.

The cautionary letter dated July 11, 2016, said that based on the reported value of the tickets, should “KemperLesnik or anyone else offer you gifts of similar value in the future, the Board of Ethics urges you to consider whether it can be reasonably inferred that the gift is intended to influence or reward you….

The letter also notes that the County Charter says that no county officer or employee may solicit, accept or receive any gift where it can be reasonably inferred that the gift is intended to influence the official or is a reward for action.

Elle’s Old Way: Former Armed Robber Running for Maui Mayor

read … Ethics Board looking into tournament gifts

SCR76: Rewriting the Constitution is a Really Dangerous Idea

CB: …An Article V convention is a bad idea in our politically polarized and corrupted time, especially when it comes to reforming our campaign finance laws. That’s because Article V of the Constitution provides no details on how a convention would work. Many legal scholars believe it could quickly become a free-for-all and create a constitutional crisis.

Unfortunately, some Hawaii legislators are pushing a dangerous plan to call for an Article V convention with misguided talking points and false facts about the convention process. The resolution, which has already passed the Senate, tries to limit a convention to deal with just money in politics reform, but there are no real constitutional guidelines that ensure that a convention can be limited to one subject.

This means that anything could be proposed and every constitutional protection that Americans enjoy could be at risk. Everything from the right to vote to freedom of speech could be on the chopping block. And sadly, in the current political environment the ratification of three-fourths of the states required by Article V is not the insurance that proponents of an Article V convention represent it to be.

There are also unresolved questions about how delegates are chosen, how the American people would be represented in a convention, and what, if any, ethics rules would be applied to convention delegates.

Even worse, adding Hawaii to the list of states calling for a convention won’t do much to help solve the problem with big money in politics….

read … Common Cause and League of Women Voters

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