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Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13, 2020 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 8:03 PM :: 2901 Views

Hawaii AG Joined States Opposing Trump Election Suit Before Supreme Court

Hawaii Joins 46 State Anti-Trust Suit Against FaceBook

Hawaii Congressional Delegation How They Voted December 12, 2020

Business Entity Registration Scam

Ige: “I’m Contemplating Tax Increases”

CB: …(Ige) In November, we raised $750 million dollars for the first time in the state’s history in order to help us make payroll. So, we continue and we’ve informed them throughout this process about what the fiscal situation is and what level of labor savings we needed to pursue. We made them aware that we were conducting a program review because of how significant the budget shortfall will be and how quickly the budget difference occurred. The state’s general fund revenue dropped tremendously once the 14-day quarantine was implemented.

And so there has been a significant difference between the revenues that we’re receiving and the cost of state government as it operates today. And that’s the structural change that we’ll have to make in order to get to a balanced budget and a working financial plan.

Q--One of the more pointed criticisms about the furloughs that have been made is that our various public unions have a contract. If the governor can change that contract at will, what’s the point of having a contract? Could you speak to that?

A--Well, certainly, I realize that, but what do you do when we don’t have the revenues to make payments on the contract? I can’t print money. So if they have ideas about how … I suppose we could raise taxes, that would be one option. But I don’t have the authority to raise taxes directly.

And so right now, the cost of state government exceeds the revenues that we’re receiving and we need to take action in order to balance the budget. I mean, how do you respond to people who can’t pay rent?

Q--Governor, since you brought it up, maybe we could speak to the possibility of raising taxes, because that’s certainly out there. And you certainly hear that from the union membership. If the Legislature were to move tax increases and ask you to sign them, would you do it?

A--It’s too complicated to respond. But I would be looking at where I am required to submit a financial plan and we’re looking at the revenues that we expect that the council will forecast. And really, I understand we set a target for reducing the size of state government and cutting the budget as part of our program review at $600 million. And it’s tough. It’s hard to find $600 million of cuts in the state budget. A lot of programs that we provide are the things that we need to do in an emergency — unemployment insurance, Medicaid, SNAP, all those social safety net programs. Demand for services is the highest it’s been.

Q--But if the Legislature was to come back to you with various tax increases, is there any that would be acceptable to you?

A--Well, I mean, we’ll look at it. You know what? I’m contemplating a couple of things myself, just to make everything work. And so I think as we get into this session and we’re finalizing our budget submittal, more of that will become evident as we proceed forward….

read … Interview: Gov. David Ige

“There will need to be much more emphasis on early retirement.”

Borreca: …Asked to compare those budgets then with the crisis Ige faces now, Abercrombie said: “Hawaii is facing its most challenging time, ever.”

“The difference is that when I was dealing with it, the economy was in good shape, tourism was back. We had the tax revenue to pay the principal and interest on the borrowed money.

“I look at the bond sales David is going through and the delays in the medical insurance payments, the state credit rating is going to plunge,” Abercrombie said in an interview last week.

Abercrombie, who said he and all of Hawaii’s living governors have been talking to and advising Ige, is urging the administration to prepare for bad times.

“David is facing times that are infinitely worse than anything we faced. Revenues from taxes have disappeared, people are out of work and nobody is coming here.”

Looking at the future for the state, Abercrombie said, “We are facing mass layoffs. Linda and I had to face layoffs, but nowhere remotely to the same degree.”

The result, Abercrombie predicted, is the state will have to change how public workers are employed. “There will need to be much more emphasis on early retirement.” …

WHT: UH-Hilo preparing for state furloughs

read … Hawaii’s public labor unions must realize that a collapsed economy will hurt everyone

Purposeful HSTA Chaos Blocks Obvious Solution for Education

SA: … At my son’s high school, hybrid means that half of the students will receive in-person instruction two days a week (Monday, Wednesday) from 8:15 a.m. to 12:45 p.m., and the other half will receive the same on the alternate days (Tuesday, Thursday). Fridays there will be no instruction.

On days that the child is not in school, he or she is expected to work on assignments with no help readily available from teachers.

What does this mean for students and parents? It means that students are getting shortchanged when it comes to instruction hours. It means they are getting shortchanged on content since the teacher will be teaching the same lesson twice. And it means that students will get vast amounts of homework to keep them busy on their “days off.” It also means that parents will be teachers three days a week.

For some children, this model might work. They will complete assignments without needing help from anyone on stay home days. But for many, this hybrid model will be just as detrimental or worse than distance learning. At least with distance learning, students got to see their teachers virtually every weekday until around 1:30 p.m. Come January, we might see a lot of kids at the beach on weekdays.

How can we fix this? An obvious solution — one that many private schools are already doing — is asking teachers to teach all students, with half of the students at school, and the other half following online. This way, students at home can ask questions and participate in class discussion. It won’t be perfect, but it will be better than letting unsupervised students go holoholo. Teachers won’t have to rush content as they won’t be teaching the same lesson twice.

Additionally, the vulnerable immune-compromised families will have the option for their child to do full distance learning, and won’t be forced to choose between hybrid and homeschool, which presently uses the controversial Acellus Accelerator program.

Why isn’t the Hawaii Department of Education providing this option? Why leave such an important solution up to principals to enforce (or not)?

Hawaii DOE just released preliminary first-quarter grades, which showed that over 10% of high school students failed math and English. Absenteeism also increased this year. Several mainland schools that did a more in-depth analysis of grades indicated that students who performed the worst were the ones who were struggling even before the pandemic. These are the kids who didn’t log on or turn in assignments.

read … Column: Adapt Hawaii’s hybrid learning for more in-person lessons

Usual Suspects Claim Government Employees pay is an Economic Stimulus (without laughing)

SA: … On Wednesday the governor unveiled the plan to furlough more than 10,000 state employees for two days each month, starting Jan. 1; one year of this is projected to save the state $300 million.

This drew an expected and unified protest from the public labor force, including the Hawaii Government Employees Association. HGEA and other unions issued a joint statement in response, asserting that “wage cuts will likely spin us into a recession, making our already weak economy fall off a fiscal cliff.”

There is, of course, a concern about reducing spending capacity for a sector of the population as large as state employees. Some reflection back on the Furlough Fridays of 2010 do not entirely cast this strategy in a very good light.

Carl Bonham, executive director of the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization (UHERO), explained that the administration of then-Gov. Linda Lingle implemented her furlough plan after the Great Recession had caused state revenues to falter. The economy was beginning to recover, Bonham said, when the furloughs went into effect.

“The cuts in state spending had an enormous impact on how slow the recovery from the Great Recession was,” he added, speaking Friday on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s “Spotlight Hawaii” webcast. “If we repeat that, we’re going to get the same kind of results.”

But as Bonham also acknowledged, “this is not the Great Recession — it’s very, very different.” There is even more uncertainty now surrounding forecasts for Hawaii’s recovery than there was in 2009. Taking at least modest steps to curb spending appears to be the prudent course….

2013: Act 268 Hawaii Unfunded Liabilities Plan: Pot of Gold for Corrupt Union Leaders

read … Hawaii’s budget burden must be shared

Oahu property values come in flat for 2021

SA: … Overall, the aggregate assessed valuation for the island in 2021 is $279.28 billion, a 0.3% dip from the current year’s record high of $279.99 billion.

That may not seem like much. And assuming no change in residential property rates as promised by elected officials, the flat values mean a majority of the island’s residential property taxpayers are likely to see little change when they get their tax bills next year.

But from the city’s perspective, the overall assessed value picture translates to less revenue and yet another financial obstacle that Mayor-elect Rick Blangiardi will need to face when he takes office Jan. 2….

The overall value of the properties in the hotel-­resort tax classification declined by 16.1%…

Values of properties in the Residential and Residential A tax classifications actually went up, albeit by a minuscule 0.7%….

Commercial class properties collectively increased in assessed valuation by 2.4% while Industrial class properties decreased by 0.9%….

KHON: Property tax assessments sent to nearly 300,000 Oahu homeowners

read … Oahu property values come in flat for 2021

How To Redefine The Housing Crisis In Hawaii so that Nobody Notices KSBE Profit Motive at Work

CB: … I am now in my seventh year of serving as one of nine members of the state’s Land Use Commission. The LUC is responsible for moving land from Hawaii’s conservation and agricultural districts into the urban district — for housing and other purposes….

Over those seven years I have wised up to a pattern that is as reliable as the return of the kolea. Each fall, in the lead up to the opening of the next legislative session, developers and their lobbyists and allies start to squawk about our “housing crisis!”

They then, under the guise of creating affordable housing, propose projects that will fatten them. In January their legislative allies give opening day speeches and introduce housing bills. If any of those bills survive and pass, they may smooth the way for development but they are half-measures at best when it comes to affordable housing.

Right around the time the kolea fly north, the lobbyists disappear. The “housing crisis” persists, despite decades of promises. For developers, it is the gift that keeps on giving….

Related: Amemiya Joins Pack of Insiders Grabbing ‘Affordable’ Housing Units for Themselves

The Affordable Housing Scam

read … How To Redefine The Housing Crisis In Hawaii

How Lending Practices Restrict Hawaiian Homesteaders’ Borrowing Power

CB: … When asked about the unavailability of second mortgages and the cap on borrowing power for homesteaders, officials from both the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, as well as bankers and others involved, pointed fingers as much as they provided answers to why this situation has persisted.

DHHL — the state agency charged with facilitating the return of trust lands to Hawaiians with at least 50% Indigenous ancestry — said no policy existed expressly banning second mortgages on homesteads. The agency placed the onus to develop a second mortgage loan product on lenders. Lenders, meanwhile, pointed to DHHL as the source of the practice. 

As for the borrowing cap, federal housing officials under the Trump administration were open to raising it. But Hawaii’s senior HUD official says DHHL abruptly ended negotiations four years ago. DHHL denies such negotiations ever occurred….

Related: Prince Kuhio’s Fight to Americanize Hawaii

read … How Lending Practices Restrict Hawaiian Homesteaders’ Borrowing Power

Two-day summit covering Native Hawaiian homesteads

MN: …  U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, the state Senate Hawaiian Affairs chairwoman and a Molokai-born law professor will headline a free Zoom conference on Hawaiian homeland issues this weekend….The Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations and the Association of Hawaiians for Homestead Lands are hosting the virtual 2020 Homestead Summit that runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. today and 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday….

To access the summit, visit us02web.zoom.us/j/2514418123 or call (669) 900-6833. The meeting ID is 251 441 8123.

To receive a copy of the two-day agenda, email info@ hawaiianhomesteads.org or visit Danner’s Facebook page….

read … Two-day summit

Miske landed millions in loans after he knew of fed’s criminal investigation

Ilind: … In a document filed in federal court on August 7, 2020, Miske’s defense lawyers traced how and when Miske became aware of what they refer to as the government’s “protracted and all-encompassing” criminal investigation.

“By October 2016, financial institutions had begun terminating their relationships with Mr. Miske and his companies, refusing, for example, to allow him to continue to deposit KTPC’s revenues from bona fide termite and pest control services,” they wrote.

“Over time, several financial institutions terminated banking relationships with Mr. Miske and KTPC, without explanation,” and “the obvious inference was that the Federal Government’s criminal investigation targeting Mr. Miske was ongoing.”…

In April 2010, Miske purchased an oceanfront property in Hawaii Kai for $2.35 million, financed in part by a $1,175,000 mortgage from Pacific Rim Bank. This loan was apparently made several years before the federal investigation was initiated.

On March 22, 2018, Bank of Hawaii originated another mortgage loan of $1,999,999 secured by Miske’s interest in the property. It isn’t clear from available paperwork whether this was a refinancing or a new loan for additional improvements being made on the property.

In June 2019, Miske added a $500,000 credit line from Hawaii Central Federal Credit Union, again secured by the same property, real estate records show.

City records show the property has a current total assessed value for real property tax purposes of $5,305,300.

In another transaction, Kaulana Freitas, a co-defendant in the Miske criminal case now pending in federal court, submitted the winning bid of $1.4 million in a public auction held in mid-2018 for a house on Kumukahi Place in Hawaii Kai. The foreclosure sale came only after years of litigation, and it took more than another year to obtain final court approval of the Freitas bid. After the auction, Freitas disclosed that he had bid on behalf of his designee, Mike Miske, who then took his place as purchaser of the property.

Miske financed the sale, in part, with a $1,050,000 mortgage loan from Home Point Financial Corporation that provided 75% of the purchase price. The property is current assessed for tax purposes at $1,344,400, slightly less than the purchase price….

read … Miske landed millions in loans after he knew of fed’s criminal investigation

“How do you handle mean things people say on social media?”

Cataluna: … Imagine being afraid to speak the truth or take proper action because of what someone might say — and not even to your face, but online — far-removed and bloodless? Imagine quaking in your shoes because someone might hit the all-caps button and call you a dirty name?

We still teach the kids the old “sticks and stones” suck-it-up line about how words will never hurt them, but in the last several years (OK, mostly in the last four years) there have been so many  “leaders” who seem to believe the contrary. Kids are taught to stand up to a bully, or to at least withstand teasing, but adults in public office cower and submit.

The kids notice. They see the discrepancy between how they’re told to be bigger than hurtful words, and how online comments seem to rule the world.

In the past, when invited to speak to students about writing and journalism, I would always get the same questions:

“How do you get story ideas?”

“How long does it take you to write something?”

“How do you handle writer’s block?” 

It used to be stuff about the process of writing.

More recently, all students want to talk about is the blowback. “How do you handle mean things people say on social media?”

And not just college students. Little kids ask me this question. Kids in elementary school. As if it is the hardest part of my job.

It isn’t.

It isn’t enjoyable, but it mostly doesn’t matter. It’s survivable. It’s ignorable. Nobody really cares about mean things that are said about other people. Everyone else is more worried about what mean thing someone is writing about THEM….

read … Gov. Ige and Mayor Caldwell Are Two Unlikely Tough Guys

Hanauma Bay Restrictions Jam up Neighborhood

SA: … Since Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve reopened to the public Dec. 2, after almost nine months’ closure due to COVID-19, Hawaii Kai resident Jennifer Taylor has been hearing complaints from neighbors living on and around Nawiliwili Street, which lies off Kalanianaole Highway downhill from the entrance to the bay and runs for about a half-mile down to Poipu Drive, with public parking on both sides.

The problem is traffic congestion, she said, with up to 100 cars at a time ferrying would-be visitors who were denied entry under the reserve’s new limit of 120 people an hour, planning to park and hike uphill to the preserve or wait in their cars before making another try.

“They’re parking or circling in the neighborhood, then driving or walking back up to see if they can get in,” said Taylor, who is president of the Maunalua Triangle/Koko Kai Community Association….

(Simple Solution: Reopen Hanauma Bay without restrictions.)

read … Residents upset by Hanauma Bay visitors jamming street parking

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