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Tuesday, December 17, 2019
December 17, 2019 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 6:38 PM :: 3489 Views

Ige Unveils Supplemental Budget--Massive Spending Hike

2020 Federal Spending Plan Includes Lots of Hawaii Pork Projects

Hilo Panel Discussion: Culture and Science can Coexist on the Mauna

Ed Case Finally Gets Around to Announcing he will Vote for Impeachment

Homelessness: Ige Signs Seventh Emergency Proclamation

Audio: Trustee Keli’i Akina talks about the Office of Hawaiian Affairs recent audit

Why Corrupt Public Employees In Hawaii Keep Their Pensions

CB: … When public officials are convicted of corruption in Hawaii, they may lose their jobs and their reputations but there is something they can almost always count on.

Their pensions.

Unlike many other states, Hawaii has no legal mechanism to claw back lifetime payments and other benefits from people who abuse their positions of power.

That includes people like former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha who was convicted of two felonies this year related to his use of police officers to frame his wife’s uncle. The disgraced top cop is likely to keep receiving an estimated $150,000 per year in pension checks plus health care for life – even if he ends up in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for March. …

Year after year, pension forfeiture bills have been introduced at the state Capitol. Many were never even discussed, dying in committee. Others got some consideration but didn’t make it over the finish line. One proposal introduced this year by House Speaker Scott Saiki, House Bill 1264, passed in the House but died in the Senate. …

“It’s really not right that somebody can commit a felony — a job-related felony — and still walk away with the complete pension,” said state Sen. Breene Harimoto, who has sponsored legislation on this issue. “There needs to be some punishment there.” ….

Sen. Les Ihara has introduced pension forfeiture proposals repeatedly since 2007, according to his office. …

Back in 2003, Gov. Linda Lingle was pushing for a benefits claw-back measure. Saiki, then House majority leader, told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin that her proposal was rejected for constitutional reasons.

At the time, the newspaper’s editorial board said legislators were protecting corrupt public officials and suggested opponents were “lapdogs of Hawaii’s powerful public employee unions.”

For the recent House bill, the unions didn’t weigh in. The only testifier was the Employees’ Retirement System itself, which had no objection.

It was tough to pin down where Hawaii’s unions stand now.

Malcolm Lutu, president of the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers, did not respond to requests for comment. Caroline Sluyter, spokeswoman for the Hawaii Government Employees Association, wouldn’t say where that organization stands on the issue.

“We are not in a position to comment on your story because pensions are not negotiable in our contracts,” Sluyter said in an email. …

There may be some legitimate constitutional questions, Ihara said, and those should be discussed.

He pointed to a 2007 opinion from a Legislative Reference Bureau attorney who quoted a section of the state constitution: “Membership in any employees’ retirement system of the State or any political subdivision thereof shall be a contractual relationship, the accrued benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.”

The attorney, Ken Takayama, said a constitutional amendment would be “advisable.” That would have to be done through a constitutional convention or a referendum presented to voters, according to the state’s website….

From California to New Jersey, states have passed laws allowing government agencies to revoke the pensions of those found guilty of felonies committed on the job, according to a review by Governing magazine. … 

CB: Public Officials Who Commit Job-Related Felonies Should Lose Pensions

read … Why Corrupt Public Employees In Hawaii Keep Their Pensions

Rail Launch to be Matched by Gigantic Bus Fare Hikes

SA: … Bus fares would rise a quarter to $3 per trip while seniors and youths would pay $1.50 under a plan given tentative approval Monday by the Honolulu Rate Commission.

Besides raising rates in nearly every category, the sweeping plan would require Oahu transit passengers to rethink their riding habits because it eliminates daily, weekly, monthly and annual passes in favor of a system that would “cap” how much commuters would pay on a given day or month.

Currently, adults may purchase a daily pass for $5.50, a monthly pass for $70 or annual pass for $770. By switching to the recently introduced, reloadable electronic Holo card, which acts like a prepaid debit card, riders would be charged for up to three trips a day and 30 trips a month and then get any other rides free.

So under the $3-per-trip scenario, commuters would pay a maximum of $9 a day and $90 a month.

Seniors (65 and older), those with disabilities and youths (6 to 17, or up to 19 if still in high school) would see the more significant fare hikes under the proposal. Seniors now pay $1 one way, and youths pay $1.25. The plan calls for them all to pay half the standard fare, or $1.50 if the standard fare was $3. The daily cap for seniors, those with disabilities and youths would be $4.50 a day and $45 a month. Seniors and those with disabilities now pay $35 for an annual pass — there is no monthly pass for them — while youths pay $35 a month.

The commission also agreed to charge a single, intermodal rate that would apply to bus and rail rides whenever the city’s long-awaited rail transit line begins operations.

Meanwhile: Should free-parking perks for electric vehicles expire June 30, as they’re now set to do?

read … Bus fare increase gets initial approval

Technicality means the Kealohas could get less prison time in mailbox case

HNN: … A victory for the Kealohas in federal court Monday as a judge ruled against prosecutors in a decision that could affect their prison sentences.

In June, a jury convicted ex police chief Louis Kealoha, his wife Katherine, a former deputy prosecutor, and two other police officers - Derek Hahn and Bobby Nguyen - of conspiracy and obstruction of justice for framing a Kealoha relative for a crime he didn’t commit.

But the jury did not convict the group of civil rights violations, which would have added prison time under the federal sentencing guidelines.

U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright scolded prosecutors for not addressing the issue in court filings that followed the convictions.

Because of the technicality, the prison time for all is expected to go down.

At the same hearing though, Seabright warned the group that he believed the criminal acts did indeed violate the civil rights of Gerard Puana because Puana was arrested and served jail time while he was prosecuted for the staged mailbox theft….

Judge Seabright has discretion and can go above the sentencing guidelines if he believes it is warranted.

“The judge did place us on notice that he’s going to go higher than the guidelines so now we know and we just got to deal with it,” said Gary Signh, attorney for Katherine Kealoha….

All will be sentenced in March for conspiracy and obstruction of justice….

read … Technicality means the Kealohas could get less prison time in mailbox case

Telescope Protesters to halt sit-in at UH-Manoa campus After Launching Witchhunt

SA: … Students who have been holding a sit-in at the administration building at the University of Hawaii at Manoa since August say they plan to pack up their stuff and leave Bachman Hall on Friday….

the group met with UH President David Lassner three times, with UH Board of Regents leadership once, and joined in some 300 protocol ceremonies in honor of the protesters on the mountain.

“We know that being here 24/7 isn’t where our energy is best spent now,” Fisk said…

… Fisk said the effort also helped prompt UH-Manoa Provost Michael Bruno to announce the formation of a commission to address racism and bias on the Manoa campus….Under a best-case scenario, the commission could end up demanding that the Board of Regents cancel the TMT sublease….

Related: Witch Hunt: UH Manoa seeking nominations for commission to address racism and bias on campus

read … Protesters to halt sit-in at UH-Manoa campus

Ige: State spends $15 million on Maunakea access

HTH: … Gov. David Ige said Monday that the state has “spent about $15 million in trying to provide safe and secure access for Maunakea” as the blockade of Maunakea Access Road by protesters of the Thirty Meter Telescope project has entered its sixth month.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the full County Council will vote in Kona on a resolution that would authorize Mayor Harry Kim to enter into an agreement with the state to receive $10 million to reimburse the county for law enforcement expenditures incurred because of an enhanced police presence at the site of the blockade, as well as a companion measure to appropriate the $10 million to the proper account….

Addressing the issue of state costs incurred during the Maunakea standoff while speaking at a briefing for media of the state’s supplemental budget for fiscal years 2020 and 2021, Ige said he asked his department heads to “incorporate estimates of what we think is necessary” and “contingency requests” in the supplemental budget.

“Certainly it’s (cost) more than we thought it would,” Ige said. “But, you know, part of the notion is that we believe we have an obligation to ensure that those that are legally permitted with projects have the ability to access their construction sites so that the projects can move forward.”

County Finance Director Deanna Sako said during a Dec. 3 meeting of the Council’s Finance Committee that as of Nov. 1, the county had spent about $4.5 million in police costs and the $10 million figure in the agreement was to cover increasing police expenditures as the agreement was being developed.

The Finance Committee voted 7-2 to move the council resolution and companion appropriation bill to the full Council for Wednesday’s vote…. 

SA: Ige mum on how much money budgeted to deal with protests against Thirty Meter Telescope

VIDEO: Governor Ige Talks TMT / Mauna Kea Related Costs (Dec. 16, 2019)

read … Ige: State spends $15 million on Maunakea access

Climate-change lawsuits bad for environment, Hawaii residents

SA: … Maui and Honolulu counties announced their intent to sue energy companies because their products contribute to global climate change. The counties’ goal, similar to a handful of other lawsuits by local governments on the continent, is to get money to deal with local harms related to climate change. The counties are right to want to do something about climate change, but this litigation is not the answer. If successful, their lawsuits would have no impact on improving climate change.

The litigation itself is misguided. Climate change is plainly a shared challenge. The litigation proposes to scapegoat the energy industry for making products that are essential to modern life, and for which we all — including people on Maui and Oahu — continue to demand and use in spite of the risks….

read … Climate-change lawsuits bad for environment, Hawaii residents

Caldwell signs bill creating new B&B tax hike class

SA: … Mayor Kirk Caldwell over the weekend signed into law a bill creating a new property tax classification for those Oahu properties where bed-and-breakfast establishments operate.

The bill also places transient vacation units into the existing hotel-resort category.

B&Bs, also known as “hosted” vacation rentals, are defined as rentals of less than 30 days where an owner or operator is present. TVUs, also known as “unhosted” or “whole home” vacation rentals, are defined as rentals of less than 30 days where an owner or operator is not present.

Vacation rentals are disallowed on properties zoned for residential use unless specifically permitted by the city. No new permits have been issued by the city since 1989, but up to 1,700 new rentals islandwide will be allowed by permits to be issued by the Department of Planning and Permitting next fall….

Tax rates are determined each June by the City Council. It’s presumed that under Bill 55, the measure Caldwell just signed, the B&B tax rate will be higher than the $3.50 per $1,000 of assessed value that the owner of a B&B property in the residential zone would now have to pay. TVUs, meanwhile, would need to pay the hotel-resort tax rate, currently $13.90 per $1,000 of value….

HNN:  This also clears the way for the city to issue 1,700 permits for vacation rentals starting next October.

HNN:  This also clears the way for the city to issue 1,700 permits for vacation rentals starting next October.

read … Caldwell signs bill creating new B&B tax class

3 Months After New Law, Oahu Vacation Rental Numbers Drop 5% on Oahu

HPR: … According to data from the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the number of rental nights available on Oahu declined from more than 270,000 in October 2018 to just over 257,000 in October 2019, a 5 percent reduction.

That is in sharp contrast to Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii Island, which all posted double digit increases in the number of vacation rental nights available over the same period.

Even more telling is when the downward trend on Oahu began. Travel industry consultant Erik Kloninger, whose firm worked on the HTA data, says Oahu was on the same growth path as the rest of the state until August, when the City and County of Honolulu’s new law to crackdown on illegal short-term rentals took effect.

The Honolulu City Council passed Bill 89 in June…

read … 3 Months After New Law, Oahu Vacation Rental Numbers Drop on Oahu

Prosecutors, others (who are responsible for soft-on-crime policies, pretend to) call for tougher consequences as crime wave highlights repeat offenders

HNN: … Honolulu’s recent spike in violent crime is being carried out in part by suspects who are no strangers to law enforcement.  Victims and communities are asking how are they on the street to offend again? Always Investigating dug into what needs to change to tackle this particular crime wave, and what different segments of the justice system are doing about it….

(Answer: They made it possible by letting these guys out again and again.  But now they will pretend to be trying to solve the problem.  If you believe them, then you are part of the problem too.)

“We need to stop this,” Honolulu Acting Prosecuting Attorney Dwight Nadamoto told Always Investigating. “We need to stop this revolving door where they’re giving just a slap on the wrist and they’re let out again thinking, “Oh this is the time they’re going to learn.’ Well they haven’t learned the past 4 or 5 times. Why are they going to learn now?”

(So he needs to stop hi8mself?)

“When we charge these cases we’re going to try and get the maximum penalties we can,” Nadamoto said, “Things like extended terms, we’re going to use all those types of sentencing enhancements that we can to charge these individuals and make them know this is serious and they need to stop.”

(IQ Test: Are you laughing?)

Sitting judges cannot comment on specific cases to the media so we asked retired state Circuit Court Judge Randal Lee to weigh in.

“From the Judiciary’s perspective, they need to take these crimes equally as serious, impose substantial punishment,” Lee said. “You’ve got to send a message to these types of offenders that this will not occur, will not happen on our watch.”

That would be a change in an era of restorative justice, where it’s increasingly common for deferred not-guilty or no-contest pleas and probation to be granted instead of stiff jail time, as it was for Troy Salas before he was accused of driving toward a police officer at a traffic stop last week.

“I think you need to hold people accountable for what they do,” Lee said. “If not, what happens is, ‘Well if nothing’s going to happen to me, who cares? Who cares? I can go out and do whatever I want to do because nothing’s going to happen to me.’ The violent stuff needs to be addressed rapidly and radically.”…

(Got time on your hands? Look up criminals sentenced by Lee and find out what the real deal is.)

read … Prosecutors, others call for tougher consequences as crime wave highlights repeat offenders

Hawaii Law Enforcement Standards Board Wants More Money, More Time

CB: … In a resolution approved Tuesday, the board is asking the Legislature for $483,000 and four additional years to create uniform standards for police departments. …

read … Hawaii Law Enforcement Standards Board Wants More Money, More Time

Soft on Crime: 7 Time loser caught trying for #8—gets released 

AP: … Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard said at a press conference Monday afternoon that around 10 a.m., police received reports of two men wearing ski masks in a Pearl City Sam’s Club parking lot.

Ballard said they were suspected of a theft scheme, but that they were not committing a crime at the time.

Officers with the Crime Reduction Unit went to the scene in an unmarked vehicle and ordered them to get out of their car, but the suspects ignored them, rammed their vehicle into the officer’s vehicle and headed toward the freeway, Ballard said.

The suspect drove erratically, which prompted HPD officers to cease their pursuit and follow at a safe distance, she said. Then a police helicopter joined the chase and observed the passenger exit the car in Aiea, she said.

The passenger, who had seven felony convictions, was picked up, taken into custody and questioned, Ballard said. But he refused to give a statement and was later released….

The chief said the deceased suspect had two felony convictions, as well as a federal probation violation….

(He was killed by the soft-on-crime crowd.  If he were properly sentenced for his felonies, he would be in a nice comfy prison instead of a coffin.)

read … Killed by Soft on Crime Policies

Honolulu police officer pleads guilty to forcing homeless man to lick urinal

AP: … Rabago and another officer had responded to a nuisance complaint when they found the man in a stall in the restroom. The man was uncooperative and initially gave a fake name, Rabago said.

The man told Rabago he would do anything not to get arrested.

Rabago said he told him, “If you lick the urinal you won’t get arrested.”

Rabago said he threatened the man in an aggressive tone.

Rabago, who remains on restricted duty, and Reginald Ramones, who left the department in August, were arrested and charged earlier this year with conspiring to deprive the man of his civil rights.

Ramones pleaded guilty in September to a lesser charge that he knew Rabago committed a civil rights violation but didn’t inform authorities about it….

The homeless man feared he would be arrested and reluctantly obeyed Rabago’s orders, according to court documents. Rabago had previously threatened another man he was questioning by saying he wouldn’t be arrested if he stuck his head in a toilet, court documents said….

The judge will decide Rabago’s sentence at a later date but the deprivation of rights charge carries a maximum term of a year imprisonment and a maximum fine of $100,000….

read … Honolulu police officer pleads guilty to forcing homeless man to lick urinal

Waipahu Flaw: Homeless Being Swept instead of being Arrested

HNN: … A new project by the city of Honolulu to help homeless find permanent housing is off to a slow start as staff work to build trust with the homeless community.

The $6 million project launched on Friday at the Waipahu Cultural Garden Park.

The city said 14 person have been helped over the weekend since the shelter first opened on Friday.

The project involves inflatable, portable tents and the opportunity for unsheltered homeless people to receive medical and counseling services, housing help, hygiene and laundry services, and, if needed, a temporary place to sleep but it requires homeless to come voluntarily.

Those who used to live at the park say the recent sweep by the city has created distrust in the community.

(IQ Test: Are you impressed with this excuse?)

"A lot of them won't accept it," said Vanessa Williams, who used to live at the park before the city cleaned out her homeless camp….

(Simple solution: Threaten them with arrest for vagrancy unless they go to the shelter.) 

read … Apply More Force

Pie in Sky: Ige wants the state to buy federal jail to replace Oahu Community Correctional Center

SA: Gov. David Ige says the state is serious about buying the Federal Detention Center near the Honolulu airport to house inmates from the Hawaii’s overcrowded correctional system, but acknowledges it would literally require an act of Congress to make the deal happen.

(In a related note:  I would like the Feds to sell me a first class ticket to the Moon, round trip of course.)

At a briefing for reporters today, Ige said state officials have approached the White House and the federal government about buying the detention center next to the Daniel K. Inouye Airport. He said said the response from the Federal Bureau of Prisons was the agency has authority to build and operate prisons and jails, but not the authority to sell them.

With that in mind, Ige said he has been working with Hawaii’s federal delegation to see if it would be possible to get U.S. Congress to authorize the sale of the federal jail to the state. At the same time, Ige said the state is pressing ahead with a plan to develop a new jail on land near the Halawa Correctional Facility.

(Reality: Hawaii already rents space at the FDC at a cheaper rate than the cost of housing prisoners at the UPW-controlled prisons. And FDC is a better quality jail. So Ige is asking that the feds accept our money so we can make their prison less efficient and more expensive.  I am sure UPW thinks this is a great idea.)

KHON: Gov. Ige proposes additional $20 million for OCCC in supplemental budget plan

read … UPW Idea

Legislative Agenda: Hawaiian Immersion May Get More State Support After Years of Community Activism

HPR: … The Hawaiʻi Supreme Court recently ruled in a landmark case that the state is constitutionally required to provide reasonable access to Hawaiian immersion education. The ruling may be a game changer for advocates of ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi, the Hawaiian language….

read … Hawaiian Immersion May Get More State Support After Years of Community Activism

Legislative Agenda: Youth Vaping

KITV: … Compared to the rest of the country, Lieutenant Governor Josh Green says three times more people vape in the Aloha State.

A round table at the state capitol Monday with lawmakers, medical professionals and families discussed the youth vaping epidemic in Hawaii.

"If we don’t, we’re going to have an epidemic of chronic lung disease. Because first it affects development, the nicotine is very high and then second, kids become addicted to tobacco," Green said ….

12-16-19: Schatz Legislation To Raise Smoking, Vaping Age To 21 Included In Bipartisan Spending Deal

Meanwhile: Cowden to introduce tobacco resolution; Schatz legislation heads to president

read … Vaping

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